Robotic arm to inspect leak in Russian spacecraft
Image credit: Nasa
A 17-metre-long robotic arm will be used to inspect the Soyuz spacecraft - docked on the International Space Station - after a leak was noticed just before a spacewalk last week.
Russia's space corporation, Roscosmos, said the crew was using a camera on a Canadian-built robotic arm to capture images of the Soyuz MS-22 where a coolant leak was detected last Wednesday.
After the images are transmitted to the ground on Monday, space officials will analyse them and decide on the next steps.
"The Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft will be inspected with cameras of the SSRMS, the Space Station Remote Manipulator System," Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, said in a statement. "The results will be transmitted to Earth on Monday."
Commonly known as Canadarm2, the SSRMS is a 17-metre-long arm which performs maintenance, moves supplies and grapples vehicles to the space station
The coolant leak was caused by damage to the outer skin of an instrument assembly compartment of the Soyuz MS-22 capsule, possibly caused by a meteorite. The coolant leaked through the 0.8 millimetre hole, causing temperatures onboard the capsule to increase and prompting the cancellation of a spacewalk.
Russian officials confirmed the crew was not in danger and that it was based on the ISS. On Sunday, Roscosmos said cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petelin and Anna Kikina were enjoying a day of rest on the Space Station and would then watch the final of the World Cup.
The Russian space agency has advanced plans to potentially deploy a reserve spacecraft to ferry the cosmonauts back to Earth should the docked Soyuz MS-22 prove out of action.
Currently, workers at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan are preparing to launch Soyuz MS-23 to the space station next March with three crew members. However, the launch of spacecraft could be brought forward and be done without a crew, to allow some of the astronauts living in the ISS to return home.
Earlier this year, Russia announced plans to walk away from the ISS – one of the few areas of large-scale cooperation between the United States and Russia – and launch its own space station. Yuri Borisov, who took over as the head of Roscosmos in July, said the ISS has outlived its purpose and is “dangerous”.
Although expected, the announcement throws into question the future of the 24-year-old space station, with experts saying it would be extremely difficult, and even a “nightmare”, to maintain the orbiting post without Russia’s involvement.
Russian space officials have long talked about their desire to launch the country’s own space station, similar to China’s Tiangong project, which is currently under construction and has recently welcomed a scientific lab.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.