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"Black Box"


Russian cosmonauts prepare for a spacewalk in search of Soyuz hole evidence

In the process of planning the work on the exterior of the station on Dec. 11, 2018, specialists at RKK Energia, the Soyuz manufacturer, had conducted a series of simulations to prepare cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko for the two most challenging tasks of the spacewalk: first getting to the location of the hole on the Soyuz spacecraft using an extendable Strela boom controlled by Prokopiev and then cutting the exterior layers of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft.

Previous chapter: Plans for a spacewalk to investigate the Soyuz MS-09 hole mystery


A view from the Russian Segment of the ISS on a Soyuz spacecraft docked at the Rassvet module, where Oleg Kononenko will be traversing to reach the ship's Habitation Module, BO.

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Kononenko was to use a platform with foot restraints at the end of the Strela boom to position himself in front of the workplace. Kononenko will then cut the insulation and micro-meteoroid shielding to access the hole area. He will then swap the surface around the hole with a special brush in the hope of picking up traces of the sealant thought to have been applied to the hole by the perpetrator who had drilled it.

RKK Energia released a video showing preparations for the spacewalk and selected views from that footage are annotated below:


A test rig allowing to simulate operations in a spacesuit on a segment of the Soyuz spacecraft (center), using the Strela (arrow) translation boom (left).


Engineers instruct cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko (right) on the use of the foot restraint system integrated with the Strela translation boom.


Initial puncturing of the soft thermal insulation of the spacecraft was planned to be made with a regular knife. Specialists apparently advised Kononenko to count visible grid lines on the insulation from the bottom of the Roskosmos logo on the Habitation Module to precisely navigate the blade to the area around the hole.


Kononenko (right) wearing spacesuit gloves practices cutting through insulation layers on the mockup segment of the Habitation Module, BO.


A test specialist wearing Orlan spacesuit tries out cutting operations.


A close-up view of cutting through the meteoroid shielding.


A test specialist peels off meteoroid shielding over the hole area.


After the hole area has been exposed, a test specialist prepares a sampling kit.


Sampling of materials around the hole area.


The Cupola module on the US Segment of the ISS provides good vantage point for monitoring operations during the VKD-45a spacewalk.


ISS crew during preparation for the VKD-45a spacewalk.

Next chapter: VKD-45a spacewalk

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This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak; Last update: December 12, 2018

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last update: December 11, 2018

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The patched hole inside the Habitation Module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos