Leak in the Void: Cosmonauts Contend With Coolant Mishap During Spacewalk

Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub

Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko (left) and Nikolai Chub (right) of Roscosmos. Credit: NASA

Roscosmos cosmonauts completed a spacewalk on October 25, completing important tasks including the Nauka module radiator inspection and nanosatellite release. Despite facing a coolant leak and partial solar sail deployment issues, the mission was concluded successfully.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub concluded their spacewalk on October 25 at 9:30 p.m. EDT after 7 hours and 41 minutes.

Key Activities During the Spacewalk

During the spacewalk, Kononenko and Chub inspected and photographed an external backup radiator on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module, as well as isolated the radiator from Nauka’s cooling system. During the radiator inspection, a bubble of coolant was released at the leak site. This necessitated the cosmonauts to wipe down their suits before proceeding.

Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub Spacewalk

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko (red stripes) and Nikolai Chub (blue stripes) prepare a synthetic radar communications system for installation during their seven-hour and 41-minute spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV

The two cosmonauts also released a nanosatellite to test solar sail technology; however, the nanosatellite’s solar sail failed to deploy as far as cameras could track its departure from the station. The cosmonauts also installed a synthetic radar communications system. One of four panels on the radar system was not able to be fully deployed during the spacewalk and the work will be deferred to a future date.

Post-Spacewalk Procedures and Upcoming Spacewalks

At the end of the spacewalk, before reentering the Poisk airlock, the two spacewalking cosmonauts as usual inspected the Roscosmos Orlan spacesuits and the tools used during the spacewalk to look for signs of coolant and wipe off any coolant as necessary. The cosmonauts also wiped down their suits and tools as usual after repressurization to further reduce introduction of trace contaminates into the space station environment. Additional filtration will then be used inside the space station in order to quickly scrub the atmosphere of any remaining traces of contaminant.

Russian Spacewalker Oleg Kononenko Attached to the Strela Boom

Roscosmos spacewalker Oleg Kononenko (suit with red stripes) attached to the Strela boom outside the International Space Station about 250 miles above Earth during a spacewalk on December 11, 2018. Credit: NASA

This was the sixth spacewalk in Kononenko’s career, and the first for Chub. It is the 268th spacewalk for space station assembly, maintenance, and upgrades.

Up next, NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli will conduct a spacewalk on Monday, October 30. Live coverage of the spacewalk begins at 6:30 a.m. on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. The spacewalk is scheduled to begin at about 8:05 a.m. and last about six-and-a-half hours.

During U.S. spacewalk 89, O’Hara and Moghbeli will exit the station’s Quest airlock to complete the removal of a faulty electronics box from a communications antenna bracket and replace one of twelve Trundle Bearing Assemblies on the port truss Solar Alpha Rotary Joint. It will be the first spacewalk for both astronauts.

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