Russian cosmonauts have discovered cracks in a module on their side of the International Space Station.
“Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module,” Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the Russian segment of the ISS, told state-owned news agency RIA on Monday, according to a Reuters report translating his statement. “This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time.”
It’s not clear how extensive the new cracks are, or what might have caused them. Solovyov did not say whether the cracks were causing any air leaks, Reuters reported.
Insider was not able to independently confirm the Reuters report, and NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 41-foot-long Zarya module was the first piece of the space station (ISS), and it launched into orbit in 1998. It’s mainly used for storage and propulsion.
This is the latest in a series of issues with Russian modules, since Russia’s side of the space station hosts some of its oldest components. Last year, a toilet on the segment went bust, temperatures mysteriously increased, and an oxygen-supply system broke down.
Russian media previously reported that Solovyov told the Russian Academy of Sciences: “There are already a number of elements that have been seriously damaged and are out of service. Many of them are not replaceable. After 2025, we predict an avalanche-like failure of numerous elements onboard the ISS.”
In September 2019, another space-station module, Zvezda, which provides living quarters for the cosmonauts, started leaking air. The leak wasn’t major and didn’t pose a danger to the station’s crew, so ISS managers left it alone until they noticed an increasing rate of leakage. When the astronauts and cosmonauts on the station finally discovered the source in September 2020, they did so by letting tea leaves float around, then following them. They patched the tiny hole with Kapton tape.
In 2018, a mysterious drill hole was discovered on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that was docked to the ISS. Cosmonauts filled it with epoxy before it could depressurize the station. Earlier this month, an anonymous Russian official blamed NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor for the holes, claiming she had drilled them in an attempt to get an early trip home. NASA leadership firmly denied the accusations.
Even Russia’s newest module — a spacecraft called Nauka, which it launched to the ISS in July — has experienced serious issues. Shortly after docking to the station, Nauka began unexpectedly firing its thrusters. This caused the entire ISS to spin around 540 degrees and flip upside down before flight controllers regained control an hour later.