There’s An Uncontrolled Leak At The International Space Station

A coolant leak in the International Space Station could cause astronauts to be stranded in space.

By Mark McKee | Published

international space station feature

We’ve likely all been the victim of travel plans getting upset by canceled and delayed flights, but when your flight is supposed to take you from the International Space Station back to Earth, the canceled flights can feel a bit heavier. According to a NASA report, an uncontrolled coolant leak could be the cause for three astronauts to be stranded on the ISS for the foreseeable future. According to, the leak is coming from the Russian-built Soyuz crew capsule that has docked with the ISS

Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin suited up and prepared for the spacewalk that was scheduled for Wednesday. NASA wrote in a blog post that ground teams noticed an unknown substance leaking significantly from the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft two hours before they were set to walk. The live stream set up to capture the spacewalk revealed particles of frozen coolant leaking into space for three hours. 

Based on a statement from Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, no one from the crew on board the ISS was harmed, but the Russian state-run media TASS reported that the Soyuz spacecraft’s external appears to have sustained enough damage to result in the leak. According to the report, a visual inspection confirmed the leak, which forced Roscosmos to postpone the spacewalk. NASA has yet to determine the cause of the leak. 

international space station NASA

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin have been onboard the International Space Station since September and were due to return via the Soyuz spacecraft in the Spring. And while American astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Kikina of Roscosmos launched to the ISS via a SpaceX Crew Dragon in October for their six-month mission, the craft wouldn’t be able to carry them all back. Of course, the Soyuz could still be usable as a return vehicle, but if NASA deems it unsuitable for travel carrying people back to Earth, then Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin could theoretically be stranded aboard the ISS until a replacement vehicle can be launched as a replacement.

In a rare show of cooperation, NASA and Roscosmos are working together to figure out the next course of action to continue rotating the occupants of the ISS back to Earth. While the Soyuz MS-23 could be sent up as a replacement to bring the scheduled astronauts home, it isn’t certain when the Russians could get the craft ready since it is expected to fly in March 2023. Pushing it up three months is not only a tall order but could be dangerous and cause even more problems if rushed. 

The two space agencies have seen some tension as of late due to the war in Ukraine and Russia retaliating against US sanctions by pulling out of the International Space Station. One NASA astronaut on the Soyuz and one Cosmonaut on the SpaceX flight show that the two agencies are taking steps to ease those tensions. Working together to solve this problem may be all they need to rebuild the bridge.