An unexplained leak from a tethered Soyuz spacecraft canceled a Russian ISS space mission

Dec 14 (Reuters) – A routine spaceflight of two Russian astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) was halted just as it was about to take off after flight controllers noticed fluid leaking from the defunct Soyuz spacecraft, a NASA webcast showed.

A spray of what appeared to be a stream of snowflake-like liquid coming from the back of the Soyuz MS-22 capsule in a live video feed from NASA was described by a NASA commentator as a coolant leak.

Of the seven members of the current International Space Station (ISS) crew — three Russian astronauts, three American NASA astronauts and one Japanese astronaut — NASA said they were not in any danger.

The accident occurred when two of the astronauts, crew commander Sergei Prokofiev and flight engineer Dmitry Petlin, were suited up and preparing for a planned spacewalk to move a radiator from one module to another in the Russian section of the ISS.

An official at Russia’s Mission Control Operations near Moscow radioed Prokopyev and Petelin that their space mission was being canceled while engineers worked to determine the nature and origin of the leak.

Rob Navias, a NASA commentator on the livestream from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said the leak halted the spacewalk, which began around 7:45 pm EST (0145 GMT Thursday).

The Soyuz craft that brought Prokofiev, Bedlin and American astronaut Frank Rubio to the ISS arrived at the space station in September and is docked on the Earth-facing side of the orbiting observatory, Navias said.

Wednesday’s planned spacewalk was once postponed until late November because the cooling pumps in the astronauts’ spacesuits malfunctioned, Navias said.

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This year’s spacewalk will be the 12th on the ISS and the 257th in the history of the 22-year-old platform for assembly, maintenance and upgrade work, according to NASA.

Navias said it was too early to know what implications the leak might have for the integrity of the spacecraft and whether it would cause any difficulties for the crew to return to Earth at the end of their mission.

Five other spacecraft are stationed on the space station — two SpaceX capsules (a Crew Dragon and a Cargo Dragon), a Northrop Grumman Cygnus space cargo plane and two Russian resupply ships, Progress 81 and Progress 82.

The ISS, the length of an American football field and orbiting about 250 miles above Earth, has been continuously occupied since 2000 by a US-Russia-led partnership that includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.

Steve Corman reports in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Joey Rowlett in Washington. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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