New holes aboard Soyuz MS-09: who drilled them?
The drill reached debris protection.
Specialists have found new traces of drilling in Russia’s Soyuz MS-09, a spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS) where an air leak was earlier reported, TASS source in the rocket and space industry stated.
A drop in pressure due to an air leak was detected on the orbital outpost overnight to August 30. It was a two-millimeter hole of the orbital compartment of the manned Soyuz MS-09 space vehicle docked to the space station. A few days later, experts came to the conclusion that the hull of the ship was drilled.
"Traces of drilling have been found not only inside the spacecraft’s living compartment but also on the screen of the anti-meteorite shield that covers the spacecraft from the outside and is installed 15 millimeters away from the pressure hull," the source said.
The cosmonauts conducted photo-and video surveillance of the hole with an endoscope. "During the analysis of those images, traces of drilling were found on the anti-meteorite shield," the source said, adding that "the top of the drill came through the pressure hull and hit the non-gastight outer shell."
According to another industry source, the non-gastight anti-meteorite protection is installed right before the spacecraft is taken to the final assembly workshop. "When Soyuz MS-09 has just arrived at the final assembly workshop, it was photographed in details. No hole and no signs of drilling were found. The spacecraft was drilled later when it was fully assembled," the source said. He added that the anti-meteorite shield was also photographed before being installed, and no traces on it were found as well.
The source suggested that the spacecraft could be damaged either during the very last stage of works or its 90-day stay in the checkout stand, adding that it was highly unlikely that the damage occurred during the transportation to the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan or at the launch facility.
The Energia Rocket and Space Corporation and the Central Research Institute of Machine-Building commission ended its investigation last week, all files were submitted to Roscosmos. According to state corporation’s director general, Dmitry Rogozin, Roscosmos experts will study the materials "for as long as it takes," but "within reasonable limits." He also said that the investigation turned out to be more complicated than previously thought and "competent authorities" participate in the work.
On Wednesday, Rogozin held a phone conversation with NASA chief Jim Bridenstine. The sides confirmed the need for further close interaction between Roscosmos and NASA experts in identifying and eliminating the causes of the air leak. Rogozin and Bridenstein also agreed that NASA would assist Roscosmos in the investigation.