NASA plays down Soyuz investigation controversy

by

BREMEN, Germany — NASA continues to downplay any concerns about the status of current or future Soyuz missions even as rumors continue in Russian media about the cause of a hole in the Soyuz docked to the station.

In an Oct. 3 statement, the second in less than three weeks from the agency on the issue, NASA responded to Russian media reports quoting Dmirty Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, who said the hole was not the cause of a manufacturing defect.

“Ruling out a manufacturing defect indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production,” NASA said in the statement. It reiterated past statements that the investigation would not affect the Oct. 11 launch of the Soyuz MS-10 spaceraft carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin.

Rogozin, in an Oct. 1 interview on Russian television, claimed that the hole had been made deliberately. That led to speculation, similar to rumors last month, that the hole had been made by someone on the ISS.

NASA, in its statement, argued that even if the hole was not a manufacturing defect, it did not mean it was deliberately created. “This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent,” the agency said. “NASA and Roscosmos are both investigating the incident to determine the cause.”

The statement also confirmed plans by Russia to carry out a spacewalk in November to study the hole from the outside. A specific date for the spacewalk has not been announced.

Dmitri Loskutov, head of the international cooperation department at Roscosmos, offered few details about the status of that ongoing investigation during a press conference at the 69th International Astronautical Congress here Oct. 1.

“The investigation of Roscosmos is ongoing,” he said. “We hope to have some additional information after the 15th of November, when we’ll have the EVA. We are closely cooperating with NASA.”

While Rogozin’s recent statements, made while NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and other agency officials are here for the IAC, appear to inflame relations between the two countries, Bridenstine has in the past downplayed any tensions between the agencies.

“We’ve been able to make sure that space has been set apart from all of these sometimes terrestrial challenges that we have with our international partners, especially in this case, Russia,” Bridenstine said of his relationship with Rogozin during a Sept. 24 interview. “It’s my intent to keep that relationship strong. It’s his intent as well.”