Pressure Leak On International Space Station Caused By Micrometeor Strike

In what may be a scene out of the movie Gravity, NASA was working to contain a pressure leak on the International Space Station that was possibly caused by a micrometeorite striking the lab, the head of the Russian space agency said, adding the incident presented no danger.

International Space Station; stock photo

"Overnight and in the morning there was an abnormal situation—a pressure drop, an oxygen leak at the station," Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. "A micro fracture was found, most likely it is damage from the outside. The design engineers believe it is the result of a micrometeorite," he said, quoted by Phys.org.

Rogozin said the fracture was found on the Soyuz ship that brought astronauts to the ISS in June for a six-month mission and is currently docked with the space station. The Russian added that air was being sucked out of the Soyuz spacecraft, which is docked with the ISS. He said a 1.5mm fracture may have been caused by the impact of a micrometeorite.

NASA officials confirmed that the small leak was discovered around 7 p.m. Wednesday by flight controllers in Houston and Moscow.

"As flight controllers monitored their data, the decision was made to allow the Expedition 56 crew to sleep since they were in no danger," NASA said. "When the crew was awakened at its normal hour Thursday morning, flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow began working procedures to try to determine the location of the leak."

The six crew members, station Commander Drew Feustel, Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency and Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, gathered in the Russian segment of the station and, after extensive checks, reported that the leak appeared to be on the Russian side of the orbital outpost.

Officials continue to monitor the situation as the crew works through its troubleshooting procedures.