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Second Soyuz springs a leak, astronauts stuck on ISS for an extra month

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Russia's space agency will hold off returning three astronauts from the International Space Station as it works with NASA to investigate a coolant leak issue that impacted an uncrewed freighter spacecraft last weekend.

The Progress MS-21 – also known as the Progress 82 spacecraft – arrived at the floating space lab in October 2022 carrying water and other supplies. After months of being docked to the station's Poisk module, the vehicle suddenly began spewing liquid coolant.

On February 11, engineers at the Russian Mission Control Center detected a drop in pressure inside its coolant loop, but the station and the crew onboard are safe.

"The hatches between the Progress 82 and the station are open, and temperatures and pressures aboard the station are all normal. The crew, which was informed of the cooling loop leak, is in no danger and continuing with normal space station operations," NASA confirmed in a statement. 

The Progress 82 spacecraft is currently being filled with trash and is scheduled to undock on February 17 and be disposed of over the Pacific Ocean. It began leaking coolant just as the Russian uncrewed Progress 83 cargo spacecraft successfully docked with the station's Zvezda service module. 

NASA and Roscosmos are now investigating the coolant glitch on Progress 82 as it's the second Soyuz incident of late after the Soyuz MS-22 began leaking in December. It's not clear what might have caused that malfunction, although one possibility that has been floated is that a micrometeoroid pierced an exterior radiator. 

Yury Borisov, Roscosmos's director general, said cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, as well as NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, will have to remain onboard until March at the earliest while officials examine the coolant loop's depressurization, according to Reuters. Their space ferry had been due to launch on February 20 but that has been pushed back to March 10 at the earliest.

"Officials are monitoring all International Space Station systems and are not tracking any other issues," NASA concluded. ®

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