back to article There may be not one but two new air leaks in International Space Station: Russian boss tells us not to panic

Russian cosmonauts have detected another leak in the International Space Station – and suspect there may be a second – months after they just patched a hole. The head of the Russian segment of the ISS Vladimir Solovyov told a Russian TV news channel that orbiting platform's residents right now need a microscope to find the …

  1. harmjschoonhoven

    This must be fixed immediately!

    Not because the ISS is in danger, but because the ultra high vacuum of space gets polluted again.

    Humans ....

  2. Winkypop Silver badge

    Slow Leak eh?

    Like every air mattress I have ever slept on.

    1. Refugee from Windows

      Re: Slow Leak eh?

      How are we going to get a big enough bowl of water into space to find the leak?

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Slow Leak eh?

        First grab a comet...

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: Slow Leak eh?

          They just need a nice cuppa:

          A floating teabag showed where the previous leak was, but they might need two this time. There are Russians on board so bound to have teabags around.

          I also find it odd that they measure pressure in milimeters of Mercury. OK so on Earth air pressure is measured in mm Hg, as the number of mm a column of Hg is supported in a vacuum against gravity. But in the weightlessness of space, orbiting the Earth, surely they should measure pressure in Pascals?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Slow Leak eh?

            "surely they should measure pressure in Pascals?"

            If you really want to see pressure, try doing it in C# with a deadline!!

            1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

              Re: Slow Leak eh?

              "If you really want to see pressure, try doing it in C# with a deadline!!"

              No thanks. I once tried programming in Windows with Visual C++ (I think), and got in a real state. My poor constructivist single thread mind was bamboozled by it. I stick to ANSI standard C from Kernighan & Richie now.

              1. KSM-AZ

                ANSI != K&R

                There are some rather stark differences between ANSI and K&R. Particlarly when defining a jump table of functions.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Slow Leak eh?

        you can find leaks in high pressure air systems by squirting soapy water onto the suspected location, and it'll form bubbles and foam where the leak is.

        A similar substance might help find them in a vacuum. It would have to maintain a liquid state while in a vacuum though.

        Alternately, how about a gas that produces a recognizable signature, glows under UV light or turns into ice crystals as it expands into the vacuum, or something equally visible that you could shine lights on and see "something" out in space... ?

        Certain CFCs mixed with oil or alcohol might do this last part, and then you'll see reflective things coming out through the hole [which would then sublimate, but hopefully if the right combination would show up long enough to see the leak]. Hopefully would show up in a visual scan of the outside.

        Also a possibility, there's a kind of tire filler (like 'fix a flat') you can use for self-repairing bicycle tires, which if it is contained within a layer between an inner and outer wall of a compartment, could self-seal against most leaks. This would be pretty cool if a module were inflatable, as the outer skin could be layered and contain such a material. I guess it'd be "fix a flat" for the ISS.

  3. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Russian scientists are refreshingly debonair.

    Western officials revealing inconvenient truths --- when not possible to conceal it as is the default --- are often in Chicken Little mode. Before blaming the Russians, or Chinese.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Openness

      You seem to be forgetting the little incident of the last hole that was discovered on a Russian segment. Where the head of roscosmos tried to claim that the hole was caused by one of the astronauts deliberately sabotaging the ISS.

      It was written about right here on El Reg:

      So the Russians are just as keen to deflect blame if they think they can get away with it as those in the West.

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    "I can say it as the mission head," he continued.

    From safely on the ground...

    Obviously, space aliens are stealing the station's air, hoping we won't notice.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Send up chewing gum on the next supply mission.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      .. or thick cigars. One of them outside, and those inside can start smoking. Might be a good argument to play nice with Cuba again :)

      1. nematoad

        Funnily enough I seem to recall that when smoking was banned from airliners it stopped one of the ways engineers used to spot leaks in the cabin. Apparently all they had to do was look for the staining caused by the escaping smoke.

        It may be an apocryphal story of course but seems plausible.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          and if not, as an engineer it is a sweet dream to let it be plausible






        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Not apocryphal, true

          Aircraft tended to be riveted together in those days, and if one (or more) was a teeny bit loose, air would escape from the pressurised cabin carrying with it cigarette smoke. This would leave a brown smudge on the outside of the fuselage.

          Any place there was even a microscopically small leak, a brown smudge. Easy to find :)

          Of course, cabin crew and passengers were also breathing the same fugitive air, getting lovely brown smudges on their lungs, too :(

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            No Shit Sherlock.....Whats That In Yer Pipe? (Icon)

            I'll take a brown smudge on my lungs, over being a brown streak on the ground.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No Shit Sherlock.....Whats That In Yer Pipe? (Icon)

              Unless you're a PHB, you'd be a red streak on the ground. Its mostly PHBs that are full of shit...

        3. imanidiot Silver badge

          Definitely true. I remember seeing some photo's of the interior panels of an ex-passenger 747 being removed, showing the inside between the covering and the pressure hull being basically filled with a thick gelatinous yellow goop. The result of years and years of tar, nicotine and other chemicals from smoking seeping into the insulating material, turning it into a disgusting sludge. It's unfortunate I cannot seem to locate those photo's anymore.

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Oakum and pitch.

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Have you ever seen a 0.2 mm hole?

    Maybe they just need to tighten a screw somewhere. The risk is that it's a crack that could start to open suddenly one day although I think that's unlikely.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Have you ever seen a 0.2 mm hole?

      Said someone that never flew or heard of the Comet airliners!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Have you ever seen a 0.2 mm hole?

        To be fair, the problem was a stress fracture at the corner of a square window caused by multiple pressurization/de-pressurization cycles as opposed to a constant pressure difference.

        Being one of the first pressurized airliners of its era, none of the engineers had come across metal fatigue, and none of them knew that sharp corners were especially vulnerable. Its one of the reasons aircraft windows are oval.

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Have you ever seen a 0.2 mm hole?

      Maybe it was an exceptionally sharp pointed object? I heard that hull pointer exceptions cause a lot of trouble.

  7. steamnut

    A trip to Halfords required.

    They could try Radweld or, a classic radiator sealer, egg white.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A trip to Halfords required.

      I tried that once, many years ago when I was young and could only afford an old banger. No one told me to let the radiator cool first!

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: A trip to Halfords required.

        So that's bangers and fried eggs.

        You trying for a full English breakfast..?

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: A trip to Halfords required.

          You could always give it some beans whilst out on the test drive to see if the fix worked...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: A trip to Halfords required.

            The first time I changed the oil on my own I did end up feeling and looking like a black pudding!

  8. 9Rune5


    Is he still refusing to identify the leak?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Assange

      To accompany your coat!

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Assange

        Not only that, but he won't identify his sauce, either.

  9. EarthDog

    How do I know there even is a leak

    Russian space stations do not leak!

  10. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Is spare air regularly taken up to the ISS?

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      No astronauts are just told to take a deep breath before launch, and that's enough to keep them topped up!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes - specifically to "top up" anything lost to leakage. They have an OGS onboard like subs do and in theory are self-sufficient for air, barring leaks.

    3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      I assume it must be as they would lose too much air from the airlock when doing space-walks to maintain a breathable atmosphere.

    4. ian 22

      The crew are given a hearty (farty?) dinner of beans prior to launch time.

  11. Evil Genius

    Just spray with diluted washing up liquid and look for the giant bubble.

  12. Sanctimonious Prick

    Gotta Blame Someone

    Trump: it was CHINA!

    Everyone else in the US: it was Russia!

    Australia: it was New Zealand!

    New Zealand: it was Australia!

    Australia: it was Ne........

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Gotta Blame Someone was those bloody immigrants!

  13. NikBartlett

    0.3 to 0.4 mmHg every day, not great, not terrible.

  14. IGotOut Silver badge

    Do they not...

    have gaffer tape?

    1. not.known@this.address

      Re: Do they not...

      Yes, or the Russian equivalent. The problem is that they don't know where to put it...

  15. Frans van Otten

    what is this mmHg that you speak of

    There should be an el Reg specific unit, right?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: what is this mmHg that you speak of

      The El-Reg standards are sorely missing a unit for pressure. A major oversight imho!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: what is this mmHg that you speak of

        0.4 mmHg = 11.09 Norris / nanoWales

        Although I’m not sure that a Norris can be divided by anything.

        1. Astrohead

          Re: what is this mmHg that you speak of

          Chuck Norris can divide by zero.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: what is this mmHg that you speak of

        For an El Reg unit of pressure, how about PHB's? As in, PHB's "applying pressure". Or maybe you could do it in "deadlines". Same concept.

  16. Floydian Slip

    It's obviously the .......

    Chinese but they are never going to admit it and will certainly blocks attempts by the WHO (World Hole Organisation) to find the sources of the air leaks.

    1. PeterM42

      Re: It's obviously the .......

      Yep - and they will take over any satellites that get too near the ISS.

  17. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    This reminded me ...

    ... of an old Sci-Fi short story. Occupants of a space station that had suffered a break up retreated to one module that could be sealed off. While waiting for the rescue ship, they discovered a small hull leak. Unfortunately, the module section they were in lacked any useful repair materials.

    Their solution: Take turns dropping trou' and sitting on the pinhole.

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