Cosmonauts start spacewalk from ISS to examine mystery hole (Update)

The two-millimetre cavity on the Soyuz spaceship caused an air leak
The two-millimetre cavity on the Soyuz spaceship caused an air leak

Russian cosmonauts began a spacewalk Tuesday to examine a mystery hole in a Soyuz spacecraft docked on the International Space Station that a Moscow official suggested could have been deliberate sabotage.

Roscosmos space agency said the aim would be to discover whether the "small but dangerous" hole had been made on Earth or in space.

The two-millimetre cavity on the Soyuz spaceship docked at the ISS caused an air leak detected in August, two months after the craft's last voyage.

So far astronauts have only been able to examine the hole from inside the spacecraft.

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in October that an investigation had ruled out a manufacturing error. He had said earlier that Russia did not exclude "deliberate interference in space."

Russian media reported the investigation was probing the possibility US astronauts deliberately drilled the hole in order to get a sick colleague sent back home.

Russian officials later denied those reports.

The discovery of the hole was followed in October by the failure of a manned Soyuz launch, although the Russian and US astronauts returned safely to Earth.

Tuesday's spacewalk began at 1559 GMT and was set to last more than six hours.

Veteran cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev left the ISS and Prokopyev operated a boom to move Kononenko safely from the ISS to work on the Soyuz spacecraft.

Once in position Kononenko was to use a knife to rip open the insulation and the debris shield protecting the spacecraft to look at the hole and scrape off samples

The samples will then be sent to Earth to "get at the truth" of the cavity's origins, the space agency said.

The cosmonaut was also to take photographs and film video, before putting new insulation over the area.

"It's a challenge. Sergei and I are accepting it," Kononenko said ahead of the spacewalk, which is his fourth and the second for Prokopyev.

Rogozin called the spacewalk "unprecedented in its complexity" on Twitter and Roscosmos said it would "enter the history of space exploration."

What makes it especially hard is that the Soyuz spacecraft, unlike the ISS, was not designed to be repaired in spacewalks and has no outside railings for astronauts to hold onto.

"There's nothing, that's the problem," Kononenko said.

The Soyuz spacecraft is used to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. The hole is in a section that will not be used for the return journey to Earth on December 20.

The ISS is one of the few areas of Russia-US cooperation that remains unaffected by the slump in relations and Washington's sanctions.


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Russia denies suspecting US astronauts of drilling hole on space station

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Dec 11, 2018
Well, the questions that bug me about thus event? Is the hole an insie or an outsie?

Whatever the cause, wouldn't the event been noticed? If not by the crew, suffering space sickness & clogged hearing.
At least causing some notice by a internal monitoring alarm?
Or the shock causing misalignment of research instrumentation?

If the hole was caused by a particle of space debris?
Since it evidently did not bounce around the habitat interior like a pinball?
It should still there to be found like a spent bullet.

Leaving us with two other possibilities.
Either the particle exited the habitat through a still, unnoticed exit hole?

Or, the particle was destroyed as it entered?
That should have left a smear of vaporized material from the micro-blast?

A detective story for our times!
Now what did I do with my trench-coat? Meerschaum pipe? & fly-fishing hat?

Dec 11, 2018
The prior examination, from inside the ISS, indicated that the hole had been made and plugged, and whatever was used to plug it had dried out and come loose. That sounds to me more like a worker on the ground accidentally drilled a hole in the wrong place and tried to cover it up than anything else.

Dec 11, 2018
I'm going with a micrometeorite and paranoia.

Dec 11, 2018
@Cusco, I'd love to see a link for that.

Dec 11, 2018
That's a pretty interesting revelation Cusco.
That would explain why the occurrence was not detected immediately.

Frankly & Ernestly? I'd have expected the entire shell to ring like a bell if a micro-meteorite strike was massive enough to leave a visible hole!

An appalling peal?

I also concur with Da Schneib.
Please post a link to your source.
Thank you.


Dec 11, 2018
Thanks, @djc.

Gee that sure looks like someone with a drill in their hand screwed up. Where did the rip above it come from?

Dec 12, 2018
Looks like a, ground based, production worker had too much blood in his vodka stream.

Dec 12, 2018
The prior examination, from inside the ISS, indicated that the hole had been made and plugged, and whatever was used to plug it had dried out and come loose. That sounds to me more like a worker on the ground accidentally drilled a hole in the wrong place and tried to cover it up than anything else.

Yeah. There would be a lot more sure fire ways to terminally sabotage stuff and force an evacuation (e.g. in the cooling or power systems)

Otherwise...CSI: ISS?

Dec 12, 2018
Truly an unconscionable deed for anyone who loves and dedicates their life to working in the aerospace sector. There's only one 'monolithic and ruthless conspiracy' I can think of that would stand to benefit from such an act...

Dec 12, 2018
@Protoplasmix: Would you care to elaborate on your paranoid ramble?

Dec 12, 2018
This was a piss-poor "unconscionable deed".

Revealing the commentators on this site who think like a Moscow bureaucrat.

If this is proven to have been caused by a ground-worker? My assumption would be that he screwed up. Drilling in the wrong part of the hull. Then tried tp cover up his mistake.

Why? Because of asshole bosses who would stupidly punish the worker for admitting that they had blundered.

Billions of dollars of technology & a couple of dozen expensive crew & researchers put at risk because of infantile executives playing the blame game!

Whatever the reason for the worker's error? It is stupid of management to encourage the people doing the work to cover-up errors & accidents.

The entire reason for this institutional stupidity by corporate bureaucrats?

Is the old mantra "The buck never stops at my desk! Taking the blame is what subordinates are for."

Explaining why so many American corporations have withdrawn from building American spacecraft.

Dec 12, 2018
Truly an unconscionable deed

The guys who assemble this stuff are just some workers. It's like the shlubs who weld together nuclear reactors. Yeah there are all kinds of regulations but at the end of the day it's an assembly job that's not well paid and which is the single income for someone and their family. I can easily see someone just screwing up and trying a quick fix instead of raising a flag and delaying the entire project for an unspecified amount of time until someone can hand-make a new part (risking their job in the process if it really looks like they bungled it) .

People are that way. Everywhere.

Dec 12, 2018
yes a_p I agree with you. However, what concerns me i?

So many people are eager to pile all the blame onto low-level workers. For being human & fallible.

Those same critics are too cowardly to accept that this is a Management Problem.

Too many people assume being the Boss gives them the god-granted license to bully their employees.

Those who criticize regulators or teachers or clerks. Are too fucking stupid & gutless to say a word against the policymakers who fail their duty to act responsibly.

Dec 12, 2018
Wow, look at all the people with zero experience in the field, and who clearly have no understanding of attributes like integrity and professionalism. Here's what it's like: You know people's lives are depending on everything working properly. Your work is always inspected, documented, signed by you and your supervisor, and for quality assurance all those actions are inspected.

Dec 12, 2018
I see it happen every day. Even in the most regulated areas. Not everyone is as professional as one would like. Management divas exist. Workers who are afraid or can't take criticism (or won't own up to mistakes) exist. Bad personal relations between some "management wanna-be" types and the rest in the team exists.

Sometimes it's even a cultural thing. e.g. we're working with a percentage of chinese programmers and other groups in hungary and slovakia. They are very proficient, but dear god: you will never get it out of them if there's a real problem brewing until everything falls over. That's just not how they think (and actually for different reasons...whereas for the hungarians/slovakians it's always a pride thing to get stuff done no matter the odds - even if it fails catastrophically sometimes - for the chinese it's more of a 'face' thing).

You find the errors eventually, but sometimes just very late in testing (or, in extreme cases, in the field).

Dec 12, 2018
I see it happen every day. Even in the most regulated areas. Not everyone is as professional as one would like. Management divas exist. Workers who are afraid or can't take criticism (or won't own up to mistakes) exist. Bad personal relations between some "management wanna-be" types and the rest in the team exists.
Sure, we're only human, prone to making mistakes for a variety of reasons. Hence the reason for the hierarchical structure, a chain of command with levels of increasing responsibility and accountability, and a highly competitive vetting process that generally ensures the cream of the crop rises to the levels commensurate with the responsibilities.

Dec 12, 2018
Doesn't work, though, because higher levels will only make good decisions if they know what they're talking about. I've worked exactly in one company that had that (and there the hierarchy was so flat that it was basically the 3 co-bosses and then everyone else with the bosses being co-founders who built the company from scratch)

In highly regulated areas you will only find large companies with multiple levels of hierarchies (even more so if they are global players). At these company structures management knows about management (if that) and nothing else because these positions are filled not from the pool of the people doing actual stuff.
Not surprising that decisions made by people who know nothing of the subject are no better than pure guesses.

In large companies quality doesn't rise to the top. Incompetence (in management) is hired directly from the outsied for outrageous salaries because those who hire don't know how to judge quality. But expensive must be better, right?

Dec 12, 2018
Well, Pro, I'll say this. I hope you are grateful to the educators who made the effort to steer you in your career choices.
That your job experiences are productive & rewarding.

& yes, this us a bot so subtle jab at the poor quality of bosses during my careers.
I cherish the memory of the few superior quality of managers & executives I have known.

The best hire I ever did was the guy who would replace me & bought out my store. In my opinion, he improved the business, doing better than I accomplished.
Until his sudden accidental death.
When his family sold the business cheap to a competitor. Who promptly shut it down. They had no intention of trying to compete against his quality of product & excellent customer service.

Out in the more general corporate jungle. All too many executives fear hiring anyone competent, who could do their job.

A pity he did not find his replacement in time.
An executive should always be seeking those to surpass them.

Dec 15, 2018
Doesn't work, though, because higher levels will only make good decisions if they know what they're talking about ... In highly regulated areas you will only find large companies with multiple levels of hierarchies (even more so if they are global players) ... In large companies quality doesn't rise to the top ...
Ah, here's where people may be missing the point. Many (most?) astronauts have prior experience with, and received training in, the military. Another word not strong in the vernacular of 'large companies' (in addition to integrity and professionalism) is the word 'honor.' Alluding to the second part of my first comment, a strong case can be made that, not only does the military work, it works a little too well...

Dec 15, 2018
@Protoplasmix: Would you care to elaborate on your paranoid ramble?
Interesting but common reaction to use of the word "conspiracy," @pntaylor -- note that for the investigation into the alleged Russian conspiracy that the mainstream media instead uses the word "collision" to avoid just such a reaction. Check out this from PCR featuring the work of Caitlin Johnstone -- https://www.paulc...is-lost/

Dec 15, 2018
Late edit: collision -> collusion

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