Roscosmos officials today released a close-up image taken on February 17, 2023 of what they think is the hole in the Progress freighter that caused a leak in its coolant system on February 11th.
The picture was taken shortly after the freighter undocked from ISS to be de-orbited over the Pacific. To the right is a comparison of pictures taken of that Progress hole and the hole that occurred in December on the Soyuz spacecraft docked to ISS. The comparison was first created by this Twitter user but rearranged by me to post here. The red circle in the bottom image marks what the Russians identify as the Progress hole. The top image shows the hole that caused an almost identical leak in a Soyuz capsule in December. The Russians say the Progress hole is about 12 millimeters in diameter, and to their mind was caused “by an external influence,” same as the Soyuz hole.
This conclusion however is suspect. If you look at the best resolution version of the picture of the Progress hole (available here), there appears to be material surrounding the hole, as if the hole broke from the inside, not from an outside impact. (Because the resolution is poor, however, this conclusion is uncertain.)
More telling is that, as both pictures show, the two holes are almost in the exact same place on these two spacecraft. As noted by the Twitter user who first made this picture comparison, “I can’t even calculate the odds of 2 spacecraft being struck in almost the same place, within weeks of each other.”
That the Soyuz leak caused so much staining and the Progress leak has none is also puzzling.
Were these leaks both caused by the impact of a micrometeoriod or piece of space junk, as the Russians now claim? Or was one by sabotage or sloppy production work on the ground? Or were both? One impact might make sense, but two at almost the same spot? It defies logic or the percentages for two impacts so similar to occur so close together in time.
Sabotage however in the same area is very conceivable, especially considering that the Russians have never explained the cause of the hole that was drilled in a Soyuz capsule in 2018, a hole that was drilled and then patched, before launch.
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