Russia has now released an image taken using the robot arm on ISS of the leak that occurred on its Soyuz capsule docked to ISS in December.
The picture to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, is that image. This is not the coolant leak hole on the Progress freighter on February 11th, this past weekend. As of now no image of that hole has ever been released.
No interpretation of this hole and the stain around it has as yet been released. However, Russia has now postponed the launch of the next Soyuz capsule from February 19th until early March in order “to give investigators time to rule out similar issues in the upcoming mission.” This Soyuz was to launch unmanned to replace the Soyuz that leaked in December and provide the astronauts that launched on that leaking Soyuz a safe lifeboat that they could come home on.
Meanwhile, all communications with ISS have now been shifted to the private channels, so the public cannot hear them.
All these actions strongly suggest that both the Russians and Americans are now seriously considering the possibility of sabotage or damage to the coolant systems on all Russian spacecraft, before they leave the factory and are launched.
To clarify the situation, the image to the right shows all the spacecraft presently docked to ISS. Progress 82 is the spacecraft that experienced a leak in its coolant system on February 11th. Soyuz-MS22 experienced a leak in its coolant system in December. At the moment the only safe vehicle for returning the seven astronauts on ISS is Crew-5 Dragon, SpaceX’s Endurance spacecraft. Should a major catastrophe occur requiring an immediate evacuation of the station, the plan right now is for five astronauts to come home on Endurance, and two Russians to come home on the damaged Soyuz. (The thinking is that having only two men on board will prevent too much of a temperature rise during the return to Earth because of the lack of its coolant system.)
With the delay in the launch of the replacement Soyuz lifeboat, this emergency plan will be in place for at least three weeks longer.
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