The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has claimed that the hole found in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft currently attached to the International Space Station was intentionally drilled.
The hole was found last week when ground crew noticed the ISS was losing air pressure. The crew systematically closed off sections of the station until the leak was discovered. It was initially thought that the hole was caused by a micrometeorite or possibly even space debris, something the ISS had miraculously avoided in its 20-year history.
It’s a good thing the leak was located quickly. Had they not been able to find it, the ISS would have ran out of breathable air in just 18 days. As it stands now the crew on the station is perfectly fine, having temporarily patched the hole with a special tape, then later a more long-term combination of special glue and medical gauze. That’s better than the funniest part of the story – the fact that astronaut Alexander Gerst initially plugged the hole with his thumb.
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Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, said:
We are considering all the theories. The one about a meteorite impact has been rejected because the spaceship’s hull was evidently impacted from inside. However it is too early to say definitely what happened. But, it seems to be done by a faltering hand… it is a technological error by a specialist. It was done by a human hand – there are traces of a drill sliding along the surface.
It is a matter of honor for Energia Rocket and Space Corporation to find the one responsible for that, to find out whether it was an accidental defect or a deliberate spoilage and where it was done – either on Earth or in space. Now it is essential to see the reason, to learn the name of the one responsible for that. And we will find out, without failTASS
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According to ScienceAlert, there are rumors that the culprit behind the drilling has already been identified, though it’s not currently known if this is the case:
Right now, the leading theory comes from an unnamed source at Energia, which told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that “[t]he hole was made on the ground” and that “[t]he person responsible for the act of negligence has been identified”.
Another anonymous source confirmed that the hole was accidentally drilled by a worker at Energia, who decided to hide their mistake with a seal and decorative fabric instead of reporting it.
For two months, the gamble paid off. Their patchy solution even managed to pass the spacecraft’s pressurisation tests before it was launched into space to meet up with the ISS. But then, the seal began to leak.
“[Once in orbit], the glue dried and was squeezed out, opening the hole,” the second source told RIA Novosti.ScienceAlert
I’ve long wondered, as have many others, why NASA has been so reliant on Russian spacecraft to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The reliance on a foreign government – particularly one whose leadership has been rather hostile towards our own – feels like a bad plan.
NASA’s own Space Launch System (the SLS) has been plagued with delays and cost overruns. The current plan is for the first SLS launch (SLS-1) to take off from Pad 39B in June of 2020. The SLS will use four RS-25 engines (the Space Shuttle used three of the same engines), and the same solid rocket boosters the Space Shuttle used as well.
I was lucky enough to be invited by NASA to get a behind-the-scenes tour of Kennedy Space Center back in April, and managed to snap this selfie of the flame trench on Launchpad 39B, where the SLS will launch from. It’s enormous, impressive, and has a great view of historic Launchpad 39A, currently leased to SpaceX until 2034.
The view of Launchpad 39A, where Apollo and the Space Shuttle first launched from, as seen from Launchpad 39B. Follow my photography Instagram: @aSciEnthusiast.foto!
Both SpaceX and Boeing have their own commercial crew capsules. SpaceX plans on their first launch test of Crew Dragon in December 2018, while Boeing’s Starliner capsule will test launch sometime in mid-2019.
A mockup of NASA’s Orion capsule that will sit atop the Space Launch System. I took this picture inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, as the VAB crew uses this model to practice assembly for the SLS.
NASA has yet to comment on the statement made by Roscosmos, and I doubt they will. But this brings to the forefront NASA’s need to end their reliance on foreign governments to launch our astronauts into space and resume launching astronauts from US soil.