Last night, cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin were supposed to exit the International Space Station (ISS) and perform a spacewalk. Those plans were scuppered by a leak in the Soyuz spacecraft, which took the two and NASA’s Frank Rubio to space back in September. Since this is also the vehicle that will take them back down to Earth, it's still attached to the ISS.
The leak is most likely ammonia, which is used as a coolant, as snowflake-like particles were seen streaming continuously from the Russian spacecraft for multiple hours starting around 7:45 pm EST on Wednesday, December 14.
“Tonight’s spacewalk has been canceled because of an observed leak of what is believed to be a cooling substance from the Soyuz MS-22,” NASA’s Rob Navias said during a livestream.
“We noticed a visible stream of flakes coming from the aft of the Soyuz near the instrumentation and propulsion module that was indicative of a leak.”
NASA confirmed that the leak is coming from the aft end of the Soyuz MS-22. There are open questions about the integrity of the spacecraft and its ability to safely take the astronauts back to Earth in April.
“NASA and Roscosmos will continue to work together to determine the next course of action following the ongoing analysis. The crew members aboard the space station are safe, and were not in any danger during the leak,” NASA said in a statement.
The Russian portion of the ISS has suffered several problems with leaks and claims of sabotage. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the former head of Roscosmos threatened to pull out of the ISS and let the station deorbit. Although he was replaced to ease tensions with the partners of the ISS, Russia is still due to quit the space station after 2024.