Cracks recently detected in an old module of the International Space Station (ISS) could get worse over time, according to experts. A new crack discovered in the Russian module shows that it may be worn out.
“Surface cracks were found in some places in the Zarya module,” Vladimir Solovyov, flight director for the Russian segment of the ISS, told the RIA news agency, as reported by Reuters. “This is bad and suggests that they will start to spread over time.”
It is not known whether the cracks detected by cosmonauts are currently leaking oxygen into space. Zarya, or Functional Cargo Block (FGB), was the first section of the ISS to enter orbit, having been launched on November 20, 1998. The module measures 12.6 meters long and 4.1 meters wide.
Solovyov has previously warned about the aging state of the segment, saying that some components are in urgent need of replacement and that Roscosmos (Russian space agency) should expect an “avalanche” of broken equipment after 2025.
It turns out that the agency is already dealing with a constant stream of technical issues related to the ISS.
The Russian industry has been like Swiss cheese, having generated a series of annoying – but not fatal – air leaks. A small air leak dated September 2019 was finally fixed in March 2021, but another leak appeared in the Zvezda service module last July. In August 2018, another leak was traced back to the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked on the ISS, with Russian officials attributing the cause to a manufacturing failure or sabotage. A broken toilet and a faulty oxygen delivery system are also among some other recent problems. Not to mention the newly arrived Nauka module, which inadvertently spun the ISS 1.5 times after its thrusters unexpectedly fired.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov has officially declared that the ISS has passed its expiration date and that its current status “leaves a lot to be desired”. Russia’s future with the ISS is unclear, as the country has threatened to withdraw from international collaboration in 2025. Like China, Russia could build its own space station. In fact, as reported by the BBC, the first core module of a new Russian space station is already in development, according to Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos.