Astronauts patch small hole causing pressure leak on Russian section of space station

Astronauts not in danger, space agency says

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Astronauts on the International Space Station have patched a tiny hole that caused a pressure leak on the Russian spacecraft docked at the space station that was possibly caused by a micrometeorite striking the lab.

NASA officials said the small leak was discovered around 7 p.m. Wednesday by flight controllers in Houston and Moscow while the crew was sleeping, but because the leak was so minor mission control did not wake the astronauts.

"As flight controllers monitored their data, the decision was made to allow the Expedition 56 crew to sleep since they were in no danger," NASA said. "When the crew was awakened at its normal hour Thursday morning, flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow began working procedures to try to determine the location of the leak."

The six crew members -- station Commander Drew Feustel, flight engineers Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, and Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos -- gathered in the Russian segment of the station and, after extensive checks, reported that the leak appeared to be on the Russian side of the orbital outpost.

Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin said air was being sucked out of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, which is docked with the ISS. He said a 2 millimetere hole may have been caused by the impact of a micrometeorite.

"Everything is moving at 5 miles per second, 17,000 miles per hour," CBS space correspondent Bill Harwood said. "It doesn't take a very big piece of debris to cause a problem."

The Soyuz docked at the ISS in June bringing three astronauts to the orbiting laboratory 250 miles above the planet. It's one of two spacecraft docked at the ISS. NASA officials said the hole was discovered in part of the Soyuz that does not return to Earth.

The source of a slow pressure leak on the International Station was a small hole in the Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. Astronauts patched it with epoxy. (Photo: NASA)

Mission control told Gerst that they were seeing a slow pressure decay of around 0.6 millimeters of mercury per hour.

Mission control in Houston and Russia had differing opinions about fixing the leak. The Russians wanted to do a permanent fix immediately and NASA wanted to formulate a temporary fix until a safe plan for a permanent fix can be worked out.

"Regarding the path the Russians are heading down, I would really like to see a caste of that somehow on the ground before we just do a test up here and see if it's gonna work," Feustel said, adding he would like 24 hours.

The Russian crew was going to apply an epoxy to the hole and seal it; however, Moscow officials eventually agreed to hold off and use a temporary patch, giving the temporary patch one hour before applying the sealant.

After waiting an hour, Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev used epoxy on a gauze wipe to plug the hole identified as the leak source.

The space station cabin pressure was holding steady after the repair was made. Flight controllers in Houston will continue to monitor the pressure in the station overnight. Roscosmos is still continuing to investigate what caused the leak.

The ISS first launched in 1998 and has on occasion had to adjust course to avoid a  collision with space debris.

NASA said the crew were never in danger.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

CBS space correspondent Bill Harwood stopped by the WKMG studio Thursday. News 6 digital journalist Emilee Speck spoke to Harwood about the leak on the ISS and other recent space news. Watch the full interview below.

We're talking about the International Space Station leak and other recent space news with CBS space reporter Bill Harwood. Ask questions below and we'll get to as mnay as we can.

Posted by News 6 WKMG / ClickOrlando on Thursday, August 30, 2018

About the Authors:

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.