Soyuz capsule leak at space station prompts Russia to postpone another spacewalk

Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina inspects the leaking Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft (right) with the European Robotic Arm on the International Space Station on Dec. 14, 2022.
Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina inspects the leaking Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft (right) with the European Robotic Arm on the International Space Station on Dec. 14, 2022. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Russia's space agency has called off another spacewalk at the International Space Station as engineers investigate why a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft docked there began leaking coolant late Wednesday (Dec. 14). 

Officials with Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, already postponed one spacewalk on Wednesday, when the Soyuz leak was detected as two cosmonauts were preparing to exit the station for a seven-hour excursion. Now, a second spacewalk planned for Dec. 21 is no longer in the cards. 

"A Roscosmos spacewalk scheduled for Dec. 21 is indefinitely postponed as the team continues its investigation of the Soyuz spacecraft," NASA officials wrote in a statement (opens in new tab) Thursday. 

Related: Soyuz spacecraft suffers 'fairly substantial' leak at space station

A NASA spacewalk scheduled for Monday (Dec. 19) is still expected to go on as planned, NASA officials said. 

"The crew aboard station completed normal operations Thursday, including participating in science investigations and research, as well as configuring tools ahead of a planned U.S. spacewalk on Monday, Dec. 19," NASA officials wrote in the statement. "Specialists are working through robotic plans ahead of Monday’s spacewalk to best optimize for upcoming station operations and the Soyuz inspection."

The Soyuz spacecraft, called Soyuz MS-22, experienced an uncontrolled coolant leak Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. EST (0045 GMT on Dec. 15) that lasted for several hours, forcing Roscosmos to call off a spacewalk by cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelinto that aimed to move a radiator on the station's Russian segment. 

The Soyuz spacecraft launched the two cosmonauts and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to the station in September and serves as that crew's lifeboat and return ride home. It is docked at the station's Earth-facing Rassvet docking port. 

Related: The most memorable spacewalks of all time in pictures

Coolant leaking from Russia's Soyuz crew capsule docked to the International Space Station on Dec. 14, 2022. (Image credit: NASA)

Late Wednesday, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina on the space station used the outpost's European Robotic Arm to inspect the stricken Soyuz capsule. NASA engineers plan to do the same using the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. Roscosmos officials have reported spotting some damage on the Soyuz capsule after the leak.

It is unclear if the spacecraft can still be used to fly Petelinto, Prokopyev and Rubio to Earth when they're due to return in early 2023. None of the space station's crew were in any danger during the leak itself, NASA has said.

"Roscosmos is closely monitoring Soyuz spacecraft temperatures, which remain within acceptable limits," NASA officials wrote in the Thursday update. "NASA and Roscosmos continue to coordinate external imagery and inspection plans to aid in evaluating the external leak location."

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Tariq Malik
Editor-in-Chief

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award (opens in new tab) for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast (opens in new tab) with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network (opens in new tab). To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab).