The crew of the International Space Station has repaired a small leak in the Russian segment of the station that resulted in a small loss of cabin pressure.
The leak was discovered late Wednesday by flight controllers on the ground as the Expedition 56 crew slept. The leak caused a small loss of cabin pressure but was determined to be of no immediate concern for the crew. When the crew awoke, they were instructed to locate the source of the leak. Sometime later, a two-millimetre hole was discovered in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment.
In a statement published on NASA’s blog, the agency revealed that the leak had been repaired and pressure within the station was holding steady. The statement also assured that the crew and the station were never in any danger.
“Throughout the day, the crew was never in any danger and was told no further action was contemplated for the remainder of the day. All station systems are stable and the crew is planning to return to its regular schedule of work on Friday.”
This is not the first time the ISS has been hit by space debris. In 2016, a tiny piece of debris struck one of the station’s Cupola windows leaving a 7mm-wide dent. The windows are, however, designed to take high-speed damage and the crew weren’t in any danger. The windowpane was replaced in 2017.
Space debris is a significant challenge for the ISS and space operations in general. NASA constantly tracks more than 500,000 pieces of debris orbiting the Earth. The debris ranges in size from that of a tennis ball to as small as a marble. Anything smaller, however, can’t be tracked. This is a constant worry for the agency as even debris as small as a paint chip could cause significant damage.