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Too early to say if Soyuz hull was damaged before or in flight - Roscosmos head

MOSCOW, December 12. /TASS/. Tuesday’s spacewalk has failed to establish with certainty whether the hole, which caused a pressure leak from the International Space Station (ISS) in August, was drilled on the ground or during the flight, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos told TASS on Wednesday.

Dmitry Rogozin was asked whether unidentified traces, which Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokofyev found on the outer side of the hull during their spacewalk, support the theory that the hole was sealed from the outside, and, therefore, the spacecraft’s hull was damaged before the flight.

"No, not at all," he replied. "It could either be [traces of] the sealant used to patch the hole when the leak began, or the one applied from the outside. The samples will be sent for chemical analysis when the spacecraft returns to the Earth on December 20."

"There is one thing we can say for sure - the samples necessary to answer the main question have been collected," the official added.

In an interview with New York Times, published when the spacewalk was under way on Tuesday, Rogozin said that the damage to the spacecraft was most likely a deliberate action.

"It was intentional damage to the ship, we are convinced of this now," the Russian space official was quoted as saying. "This was intentional action; manual, intentional action."

Soyuz hull damage

On August 30, a drop in air pressure was registered on the ISS. The crew examined the compartments and add-on modules one by one to identify a two-millimeter hole in the hull of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the orbital outpost. In the evening of the same day it was patched up with several layers of epoxy resin. Pressure returned to normal. On August 31 the crew reinforced the patch with another layer of sealant.

Shortly after, experts on the ground came to the conclusion that the hole was drilled from the inside of the spacecraft. It is yet unclear whether it was damaged on the ground or by someone from the ISS crew. In both cases, neither a deliberate action nor accidental damage has yet been ruled out.