NASA tries to calm Russian claims ISS leak was sabotage

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NASA has tried to play down claims by Russian space officials an ISS leak was sabotage.

Speaking on Monday, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roskosmos, said that an official investigative report had confirmed their theory. 

‘It concluded that a manufacturing defect had been ruled out which is important to establish the truth,’ he said.

Rogozin said the commission’s main line of inquiry was that the hole had been drilled deliberately, a position that has been voiced in the past.

‘Where it was made will be established by a second commission, which is at work now,’ he said.

Officials are hoping that secondary investigation will identify the people or persons responsible.

However, NASA today issued its own statement playing down the sabotage claims.

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Sabotage: Russian astronaut Sergei Prokopyev showed the original 'drilled hole' during a video released by the space agency Roscosmos

Sabotage: Russian astronaut Sergei Prokopyev showed the original ‘drilled hole’ during a video released by the space agency Roscosmos

‘Russian media recently reported that General Director Rogozin said the hole was not a manufacturing defect. Ruling out a manufacturing defect indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production.

‘This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent. NASA and Roscosmos are both investigating the incident to determine the cause. ‘

The International Space Station Program is tentatively planning a spacewalk in November to gather more information, NASA said.

Sergei Prokopyev (pictured) explained on a video released by Roscosmos last month how his team located and sealed the tiny hole that created a slight loss of pressure

Sergei Prokopyev (pictured) explained on a video released by Roscosmos last month how his team located and sealed the tiny hole that created a slight loss of pressure

On October 11, American Astronaut Nick Hague and Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin will launch to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. 

Administrator Bridenstine is scheduled to attend the launch and plans to meet with Mr. Rogozin. 

This will be their first in-person meeting. They had a telephone call on September 12 during which they discussed the International Space Station leak. 

The small hole in the wall of a Russian-made Soyuz capsule docked onto the ISS was located on August On Aug. 29th and quickly sealed up.

Officials suggested a number of possible reasons for the appearance of the hole.

Initially, it was thought the damage could have been caused by a micrometeorite piercing the spacecraft. 

An anonymous source said the hole was drilled by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.

The Soyuz MS-08 (pictured) left Earth on March 21 to transport three members of the Expedition 55 crew to the International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-08 (pictured) left Earth on March 21 to transport three members of the Expedition 55 crew to the International Space Station

The Russian media speculated that a US astronaut might have sabotaged the spacecraft to delay a possible early return to earth due to alleged sickness of one member of the ISS crew.   

Rogozin even held phone talks with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

The men later released a joint statement which said: ‘The Administrator and the General Director noted speculations circulating in the media regarding the possible cause of the incident and agreed on deferring any preliminary conclusions and providing any explanations until the final investigation has been completed. 

WHAT COULD HAVE CAUSED A HOLE IN THE ISS?

A tiny hole appeared in a Russian space capsule locked to the ISS on 29 August.

The ‘micro fracture’ believed to be around 2mm wide in the $150 billion (£115 billion) space station was discovered after astronauts noticed a drop in pressure.

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst reportedly put his finger over the hole before crew patched it with tape.

The hole was confirmed repaired by Friday (31 August) after cabin pressure returned to normal. 

It was initially believed to have been caused by a small meteorite and astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a minor loss of pressure.

However, as the investigation went on it began to look like the hole was made from someone inside as opposed to outside, either back on Earth or in space, the Russian space agency claimed.

A leading theory from an unnamed source at Energia said the hole was made on the ground – potentially caused by ‘deliberate interference’ – with suggestions the person responsible may have already been identified.

Space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin said on September 4 the hole was caused by a drill and could have been made with a ‘wavering hand’.

Another anonymous source said the hole was drilled by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it. 

The patchwork repair lasted the trip up to the ISS but after three weeks in orbit gradually peeled away.

‘They affirmed the necessity of further close interaction between NASA and Roscosmos technical teams in identifying and eliminating the cause of the leak, as well as continuation of normal ISS operations and NASA’s ongoing support of the Roscosmos-led Soyuz investigation.

‘They acknowledged the entire crew is dedicated to the safe operation of the station and all docked spacecraft to ensure mission success.

‘The Administrator and the Roscosmos General Director agreed to conduct their first face-to-face meeting at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on or about October 10 when the NASA Administrator will visit Russia and Kazakhstan in conjunction with the upcoming Soyuz crew spacecraft launch of American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexy Ovchinin.’ 

Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin said that the hole could have been drilled during manufacturing or while in orbit

Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin said that the hole could have been drilled during manufacturing or while in orbit

Previously, Rogozin – who once oversaw the space industry as deputy prime minister – admitted it had become difficult to work with NASA.

‘Problems with NASA have certainly appeared but not through the fault of NASA,’ he said, blaming unnamed American officials for telling the US space agency what to do.

He also claimed that SpaceX founder Elon Musk sought to squeeze Russia out of the space launch services market and complained about the US military drone X-37.

‘Americans have this thing, the X-37,’ Rogozin said. ‘We don’t understand its purposes. Rather, we do understand, but we have not received an official explanation.

‘Essentially, this thing can be used as a weapons carrier.’

WHAT IS THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION?

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.

The space station is currently home to two Russians, three Americans and one Japanese. 

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.

The International Space Station (file photo) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth

The International Space Station (file photo) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth

ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, Nasa, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding that is endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees Nasa has begun looking at whether to extend the program beyond 2024.

Alternatively the money could be used to speed up planned human space initiatives to the moon and Mars.



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