Russia Claims Hole In ISS Was 'Deliberately Drilled,' Says It's 'Matter of Honor' to Find Culprit

This file photo taken from the International Space Station shows Hurricane Lane in the early morning hours near Hawaii, U.S., on August 22, 2018. @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS

Russia has claimed that an air leak on the Russian side of the International Space Station (ISS) may have been the result of sabotage by unknown actors.

The leak was in the Russian Soyuz craft used to ferry Russian astronauts to the station. It was around 0.07 inches in diameter. crew members were forced to seal it using heat-resistant tape as it was causing a small loss in pressure. Despite initial alarm, there was no threat to the lives of those aboard, and a more permanent repair was carried out later.

The cause is still under investigation, though it was initially thought to have been a result of a micrometeorite strike. But according to the TASS news agency, Russian space agency head Dmitry Rogozin has suggested the leak may have been the work of a saboteur.

On Monday, Rogozin alleged, "There were several attempts at drilling," adding that the tool seemed to have been held in a "faltering hand." He said the damage could be down to a "technological error by a specialist," because there were traces of a drill having slid along the surface of the vehicle.

"What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?" he asked, according to AFP. "We are checking the Earth version. But there is another version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space," Rogozin added.

Though Rogozin previously said a micrometeorite was the most likely culprit, he said Monday the agency had "already ruled out" that explanation, suggesting " the spaceship's hull was evidently impacted from inside. However, it is too early to say definitely what happened."

He vowed to discover the cause, suggesting it was a "matter of honor" for the Energiya space manufacturing company that made the Soyuz spacecraft.

Energiya said it will check all of its cargo vehicles for any defects that could explain the leak. The affected craft will not be used to carry astronauts back to Earth, so there is no danger of the damage being exacerbated by a stressful re-entry.

TASS also quoted an anonymous source in the space rocket industry who said the damage might have occurred during testing at the company's launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Otherwise, a technical fault could be to blame, the unnamed worker said.

"Suppose some sloppy worker made a mistake," the source explained. "Then he felt scared and patched up the hole with special glue. For a long time it remained unnoticed. Then the glue dried up and dropped out."

There are currently six astronauts on the ISS—two from Russia, three from the U.S. and one from Germany. A symbol of thawing Russian-Western relations in the aftermath of the Cold War, Washington and Moscow continue to cooperate on the project despite deteriorating diplomatic relations back on Earth.