30 Aug 2021 21:10

No data on new cracks on ISS - Roscosmos executive director

MOSCOW. Aug 30 (Interfax) - Roscosmos has no data on surface cracks on the Russian Zarya module part of the International Space Station (ISS), Roscosmos Executive Director for Manned Space Missions Sergei Krikalev told Interfax.

"I have no such information, we're continuing to work," Krikalev said, commenting on reports from earlier on Monday on the presence of nonstructural cracks on the Zarya module.

"Even if there are nonstructural cracks, in that case, it can fly and work further for another 20 years," he said.

Krikalev did not rule out that "some nonstructural cracks were there right from the very start, from when the metal was being rolled."

In August of last year, it was reported that an air leak had been detected on the ISS. The crew managed to contain the leak in a transfer chamber of the Zvezda module. In October, the cosmonauts found the first crack, about four centimeters in size, and patched it over temporarily. After that, the fall in pressure decelerated, but the leak continued.

On February 17, the space freighter Progress MS-16 delivered to the ISS a powerful microscope to search for other leaks. It also brought hermetic material to seal the leaks.

By March, the crew had completed repairs, having sealed two cracks. An inspection later showed that the pressure in the compartment was continuing to fall.

In April, Krikalev told Interfax that Roscosmos had yet to determine a deadline by which the problem would be finally resolved.

In July, the crew said in talks with the ground control team that the pressure in the isolated chamber had dropped to 154 millimeters Hg. Roscosmos said that the pressure drop was predictable and that the crew was maintaining it at around 200 millimeter Hg.

In October 2020, Soyuz MS-16's flight engineer, Ivan Vagner, suggested the ISS's extended 20-year service period as a possible cause of the crack.

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said that around 80% of the equipment in the ISS's Russian segment had reached the end of its service life and that after 2025, its maintenance costs would be comparable to that of building a new space station.

In October 2020, the Russian segment's head of missions, Vladimir Solovyov, said that Roscosmos specialists were predicting an "avalanche-like failure of multiple elements on board the ISS" after 2025. Solovyov said the increased cost of maintenance made it necessary to "review the timetable for subsequent participation in the program and to focus on implementing orbital station programs."

In July, Roscosmos's scientific-technical board said the ISS would be decommissioned by 2028, by which time a new station should be operating.

This month, Rogozin told Interfax that a decision on the Russian segment's future should be made in next few months.