The International Space Station (ISS) is showing its age. After decades orbiting our planet, problems have begun to pop up with regularity. Among them, there are leaks, cracks, and even problems with the oxygen supply. A senior Russian engineer now reports that cracks have appeared on the Zarya module of the ISS, which is used for storage as well as the ongoing problems to the Zvezda module, which houses the cosmonauts.
Russia's state-owned RIA News sat with Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of Moscow-based company Energia and the prime contractor for Russia's human spaceflight program, talking about the current conditions of the Russian segments of the ISS and the potential of a completely Russian space station in the near future.
Among the many questions, the interviewer asked about the ongoing issues with the leaks from the Zvezda module. The situation is not dramatic – if left alone, the station would lose about half a kilogram of air per day, which is manageable but not ideal. Cosmonauts have applied sealant twice already but the leaks continue, so the transition chamber to the module is kept closed. That said, the team is determined to find all the leaks and close them.
The cause of the cracks is uncertain, but they could be due to the welding of the modules as well as vibrations that the space station has experienced over time. And the latter could be true also for the Zarya module, which has only got superficial cracks currently.
"Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module," Solovyov said, as translated by Reuters. "This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time."
The interview also touched on the recent mishap with the Nauka module, the latest one to be launched and attached to the ISS. Hours after it had docked, its jet thrusters turned themselves on, pushing the entire space station out of its expected orbit.
Solovyov thinks that keeping the ISS as it is past 2025 is risky, and he stressed that it’s why Russia is thinking of building its own space station. That said, Russia had previously said they’d be open to continue the international partnership past 2024.
Stakeholders are currently deciding what the future will look like for the ISS beyond that date, with many focusing on a lunar space station, dubbed the Lunar Gateway, as a new international outpost in space.
[h/t: RIA News]