Russian sources have revealed finding new traces of drilling on a Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked to the International Space Station.
On Aug. 29, ground-based ISS controllers noticed a slight pressure drop aboard the orbiting laboratory. The crew traced the problem to a small hole in the Soyuz spacecraft.
Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, the commander of the Soyuz, later patched the small hole in the upper orbital module of the Soyuz. A week later, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said that the breach was a drill hole. He further claimed that the person responsible for making the hole had a “faltering hand” based on nearby scuff marks that he claimed were likely produced when the drill slipped.
An article published by Russia’s Kommersant cited unnamed sources from the Russian space agency who claimed that investigators were looking into the possibility that a NASA astronaut created the hole.
One of the theories was that one of the three NASA astronauts aboard the ISS got ill in August so one of them caused the leak to force a quick evacuation to Earth. ISS crew members rely on the Soyuz to travel to and from orbit.
“To leave the station would have required the departure of three astronauts and cosmonauts, because a Soyuz cannot depart without a full crew, as this would not leave enough seats for an emergency evacuation,” Eric Berger of Ars Technica explained.
“The motive for the sabotage seems to be that NASA did not want to pay the entire cost of a new Soyuz, probably about $85 million.”
On Friday, Russian TASS news agency reported that new evidence of drilling has been found, citing an unnamed space industry source.
The source claimed that before the controversial leak was sealed, cosmonauts conducted photo-and video surveillance of the hole using an endoscope.
Analysis of the images reportedly revealed traces of drilling on the anti-meteorite shield. The top of the drill came through the pressure hulls and hit the non-gastight outer shell.
“Traces of drilling have been found not only inside the spacecraft’s living compartment, but also on the screen of the anti-meteorite shield that covers the spacecraft from the outside and is installed 15 millimeters away from the pressure hull,” the source said.
Another industry source also said that the Soyuz MS-09 was photographed in detail when it arrived to the final assembly workshop and there were no hole nor signs of drilling found. This suggests that the spacecraft was drilled at a later time when it was fully assembled.