Two Russian spacecraft docked at the International Space Station experienced unexpected leaks in a couple of months.
The Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft parked nearby began to leak uncontrollably from its external cooling loop on December 14, 2022, as two cosmonauts prepared to conduct a spacewalk outside the space station.
On February 11, 2023, the Progress MS-21 supply ship linked to the International Space Station lost pressure in its exterior cooling system. A break caused the coolant on a Russian spacecraft to spill back into space.
And now, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has provided updates on the two spacecraft that experienced cooling system failures while linked to the International Space Station on Tuesday.
Although there were several noteworthy points in these updates—the most unexpected statement is that both the Soyuz MS-22 and Progress MS-21 spacecraft were damaged near their heat radiators by “external impacts.” To say the least, this appears odd.
“Based on a preliminary assessment of the situation with Progress MS-21 … the cargo ship experienced an external impact. This conclusion was made based on photos that revealed changes on the vehicle’s exterior,” the update said.
A micrometeorite or a small chunk of orbital debris must have struck the Progress spacecraft to cause an exterior impact. Roscosmos shared a snapshot of the Progress vehicle’s impact location. When this image is compared to a photograph of the Soyuz MS-22 vehicle, the damaged section appears to have little in common:
Given the location’s size, it appears to be a tremendous coincidence that two independent Russian vehicles would be attacked in the same area in two months, with both attacks destroying the spacecraft’s thermal cooling systems. So the chances appear to be slim.
Is Russia seeking a reason to depart the ISS, or did two micrometeorites strike two spacecraft simultaneously?
Needless to say, this is all very mysterious.