Russian officials today revealed that they will no longer use the docking port on its Zvezda module on ISS because of the stress fracture cracks they have found in the section where that port is located.
Russia is unable to use one of the docking ports of the ISS to its full extent due to cracks in the transitional chamber of the Zvezda module, the general designer of Russia’s Energia corporation, associate member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Solovyov said on Monday. “The transitional chamber’s loss of airtightness is often mentioned these days. We are very fortunate the cracks are at the end. We shut down that compartment, thus losing one docking port, which narrows our opportunities somewhat. The crack is very insignificant, though,”
In other words, they have sealed the aft section of Zvezda to reduce further air leaks, thus also closing off access to the port.
The Russian portion of ISS presently has two docking ports on two different modules. When Roscosmos launches its Prichal docking hub in November, to be attached to Nauka’s port, they will then add four more ports.
This decision underlines the impending end to ISS’s life span. Zvezda is not the only old Russian module on ISS where stress fractures have been found. “In August they found cracks in the module Zarya, the oldest module on ISS.
Though the U.S. part of ISS shows no such problem, it is designed to rely on the Russian half for its operations. If Russia must shut down its modules then the station will not be able to function for much longer.
The U.S. will likely overcome some of these issues with the planned launch in ’24 of Axiom’s private commercial module to ISS, which will eventually evolve into an complete space station separate from ISS. For the Russians the pressure to design and launch their own new station has become more critical. Whether they can do it however is unknown. Russia has not built a new space station module in decades. Their new ISS module, Nauka, was built in the 1990s.
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