Russian cosmonauts complete spacewalk to examine Soyuz hull damage

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko conducts a spacewalk outside the International Space Station Space in this still image captured from NASA video in space

Russian cosmonauts complete spacewalk to examine Soyuz hull damage

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.

Roscosmos space agency said the aim was to discover whether the "small but dangerous" hole had been made on Earth or in space. Now, with the Soyuz nearing its reentry date, Russian cosmonauts aboard the ISS will venture out into space to get a better look at the damage from the outside.

Back in August, astronauts noticed a slight drop in pressure on the International Space Station.

In the case of the Soyuz drill hole, however, Rosmocosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in October that the investigation had ruled out manufacturing errors and was considering whether the hole was due to "deliberate interference in space".

The hole, which was patched from the inside the station, was exposed and inspected by Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev, both Expedition 57 flight engineers, during a December 11, 2018 spacewalk.

Bits of shredded silver insulation floated away, as Kononenko slashed at it with a knife. 2018 spacewalk to expose the source of a pressurization leak, since patched, on board the International Space Station.

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The cause of the hole on the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, docked to the station, has not yet been established.

The hole was in the orbital module, also known as the habitation module - one of three modules on the Soyuz vehicle.

"That is exactly the hole we've been looking for, guys", Mission Control told the pair.

This part of the capsule will be jettisoned as usual before atmospheric re-entry, and so poses no risk for descent.

But as they've investigated the hole in the Soyuz capsule, astronauts can't figure out what created it. The extravehicular activity (EVA) was the 213th spacewalk in support of assembly and maintenance in the 20-year history of the space station.

The spacewalk will be the fourth of Kononenko's career and he'll be wear a spacesuit with red stripes on this journey, while Prokopyev will bear blue stripes for his second spacewalk. Kononenko has now logged a total of 26 hours and 12 minutes working in the vacuum of space, including a 2008 spacewalk when he performed similar work to what he did on today, cutting into the insulation covering the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft to remove a pyrotechnic device. With Gerst Prokopyev, and the USA astronaut Serena Auñón land-Chancellor shortly before Christmas, back on earth.

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