A Russian official has said the International Space Station (ISS) leak could have been caused deliberately by someone on the ground.
Space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin revealed that the hole in a Russian space craft docked at the orbiting station was caused by a drill held with a ‘wavering hand’.
A commission will seek to identify the culprit by name, Rogozin said, calling this a ‘matter of honour’ for Russia’s Energia space manufacturing company that made the Soyuz space craft.
The ‘micro fracture’ believed to be around 2mm wide in the $150 billion (£115 billion) space station was discovered after astronauts noticed a drop in pressure on 29 August.
It was initially believed to have been caused by a small meteorite and astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a minor loss of pressure.
However, as the investigation went on it began to look like the hole was made from someone inside as opposed to outside, either back on Earth or in space, the Russian space agency claimed.
A leading theory from an unnamed source at Energia has said that the hole was made on the ground – potentially caused by ‘deliberate interference’ – with suggestions the person responsible may have already been identified.
Sources suggest the question of how to fix the hole may have strained relations between Moscow and Houston.
‘There were several attempts at drilling,’ Rogozin said late Monday in televised comments.
He added that the drill appeared to have been held by a ‘wavering hand.’
‘What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?’ he asked.
‘We are checking the Earth version. But there is another version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space.’
An unnamed source at Energia told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that ‘[t]he hole was made on the ground’.
According to the source, ‘[t]he person responsible for the act of negligence has been identified’.
Another anonymous source said the hole was not made intentionally but by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.
If it was made on the ground, it seems the patched hole held for two months before the seal began to break.
One source told RIS Novosti that ‘the glue dried and was squeezed out, opening the hole’.
It was believed the ISS was one of the few areas of Russia-US cooperation that remained unaffected by the slump in relations between the countries and Washington’s sanctions.
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