Russian investigators looking into the origin of a hole that caused an oxygen leak on the International Space Station say it was caused deliberately.
Speaking on Monday, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roskosmos, said that an official investigative report had confirmed their theory.
‘It concluded that a manufacturing defect had been ruled out which is important to establish the truth,’ he said.
Sabotage: Russian astronaut Sergei Prokopyev showed the original ‘drilled hole’ during a video released by the space agency Roscosmos
Rogozin said the commission’s main line of inquiry was that the hole had been drilled deliberately, a position that has been voiced in the past.
‘Where it was made will be established by a second commission, which is at work now,’ he said.
Officials are hoping that secondary investigation will identify the people or persons responsible.
The small hole in the wall of a Russian-made Soyuz capsule docked onto the ISS was located in August and quickly sealed up.
Officials suggested a number of possible reasons for the appearance of the hole.
Initially, it was thought the damage could have been caused by a micrometeorite piercing the spacecraft.
Another anonymous source said the whole was drilled by a worker who hid their mistake with a seal instead of reporting it.
Sergei Prokopyev (pictured) explained on a video released by Roscosmos how the crew last week located and sealed the tiny hole that created a slight loss of pressure
The Soyuz MS-08 (pictured) left Earth on March 21 to transport three members of the Expedition 55 crew to the International Space Station
The Russian media even speculated that a US astronaut might have sabotaged the spacecraft to delay a possible early return to earth due to alleged sickness of one member of the ISS crew.
Rogozin even held phone talks with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
They men later released a joint statement which said: ‘The Administrator and the General Director noted speculations circulating in the media regarding the possible cause of the incident and agreed on deferring any preliminary conclusions and providing any explanations until the final investigation has been completed.
‘They affirmed the necessity of further close interaction between NASA and Roscosmos technical teams in identifying and eliminating the cause of the leak, as well as continuation of normal ISS operations and NASA’s ongoing support of the Roscosmos-led Soyuz investigation. They acknowledged the entire crew is dedicated to the safe operation of the station and all docked spacecraft to ensure mission success.
Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin said that the hole could have been drilled during manufacturing or while in orbit
‘The Administrator and the Roscosmos General Director agreed to conduct their first face-to-face meeting at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on or about Oct. 10 when the NASA Administrator will visit Russia and Kazakhstan in conjunction with the upcoming Soyuz crew spacecraft launch of American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexy Ovchinin.’
Previously, Rogozin – who once oversaw the space industry as deputy prime minister – admitted it had become difficult to work with NASA.
‘Problems with NASA have certainly appeared but not through the fault of NASA,’ he said, blaming unnamed American officials for telling the US space agency what to do.
He also claimed that SpaceX founder Elon Musk sought to squeeze Russia out of the space launch services market and complained about the US military drone X-37.
‘Americans have this thing, the X-37,’ Rogozin said. ‘We don’t understand its purposes. Rather, we do understand, but we have not received an official explanation.
‘Essentially, this thing can be used as a weapons carrier.’
WHAT IS THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION?
The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.
The space station is currently home to two Russians, three Americans and one Japanese.
Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.
The International Space Station (file photo) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth
ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.
The US space agency, Nasa, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding that is endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.
A U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees Nasa has begun looking at whether to extend the program beyond 2024.
Alternatively the money could be used to speed up planned human space initiatives to the moon and Mars.