What’s Going on at the International Space Station?

Image (Credit): The Progress 82 cargo craft approaches the ISS on October 27, 2022. (NASA)

It appears that we now have two problematic capsules attached to the International Space Station (ISS). Late last year, we learned about a liquid coolant lead in the Russian Soyuz Crew Return Vehicle (Soyuz MS-22 crew ship), and now we have a leak in the second Russian capsule as well (Progress 82 cargo capsule). This is not a good sign for the seven ISS crew members, some of whom were already scheduled to go home.

After inspecting the Progress 82 spacecraft, it was set loose on Friday to burn up over the Pacific Ocean, as noted by NASA:

Loaded with trash, Progress 82 undocked from the space station’s Poisk module at 9:26 p.m. EST Friday, Feb. 17. The Progress deorbit was delayed about 24-hours while Roscosmos engineers analyzed imagery acquired after undocking of the radiator area of the spacecraft, which is the suspected region where a coolant leak occurred on Feb. 11.

As a result of this second incident, the Russian launch of a replacement capsule (Soyuz MS-23), scheduled for this week, may need to be delayed until the issues with both spacecraft are fully discussed and understood. In a discussion about the two leaks, an NPR commentator noted:

Analysts say Russia’s supply chain has been stretched thin due to the war in Ukraine.

This is not good news for anyone. If we cannot rely on the Russian missions, the SpaceX and Northrop Grumman will be doing double duty.