Russian cosmonauts have discovered “[s]uperficial fissures” in one of the International Space Station (ISS) modules, according to a report from Reuters.
The information comes via Russian state media, where Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of space company Energia, explained that “Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module. This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time.”
Keeping cosmonauts in the air
The news is unwelcome, but perhaps not unexpected. Solovyov, speaking to Russian media earlier this year, said that “…[t]here are already a number of elements that have been seriously damaged and are out of service. Many of them are not replaceable. After 2025, we predict an avalanche-like failure of numerous elements onboard the ISS.”
The Zarya module, otherwise known as the FCB or Functional Cargo Block, was the first part of the International Space Station to launch, way back in 1998. It’s been in operation in space for more than twenty years. It’s not known just how much of an issue these fissures are at present but possible leaks are always an issue on board the orbiting laboratory. There were separate incidents in both 2018 and 2019 that resulted, or could have resulted in, air leaking from the station, with the most recent of these taking place earlier this year. Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov were tasked with patching those up.
Issues on board the ISS don’t necessarily stem only from ageing equipment. Earlier this year, the International Space Station was turned out of alignment by a misfiring module — a new addition to the station — when thrusters ignited thanks to a software glitch.