Soyuz MS-09
The Soyuz MS-09 crew spacecraft from Roscosmos is pictured docked to the Rassvet module as the International Space Station was flying into an orbital night period. This spacecraft had a 2mm-wide hole. NASA

The hole detected on the International Space Station (ISS) has been fixed, but the mystery behind the cause of the damage continues to deepen, with a new report indicating the hole was made in a deliberate effort to sabotage the orbiting laboratory.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 30, all six astronauts aboard ISS were detailed about an air leak on the station. Though they were not under any immediate threat, the 2-millimeter wide opening leading to depressurization was quickly spotted and sealed by the crew. It was found in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked with Russian segment of the station.

Since that day, many have raised questions regarding how such a hole could have appeared on the spacecraft. The initial theory backed by NASA indicated the hole was likely made by the impact of a micrometeoroid – a tiny but fast-moving fleck of space junk in low-Earth orbit.

However, over the past few days, a series of reports have indicated the hole was drilled by a human hand from inside. Even Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Russian space agency Roscosmos, suggested, “It was done by a human hand - there are traces of a drill sliding along the surface.”

Rogozin stressed Roscosmos and the investigating commission at RSC Energia, the manufacturer of the Soyuz spacecraft, would identify the person responsible and determine if the action was intentional.

Some previous reports suggested the hole could have been made and then covered by someone working at Energia, but the new report from Russian news agency RIA Novosti added another possibility.

Citing sources from the rocket and space industry, the news outlet revealed the commission believed the hole was made intentionally by someone.

"The commission qualifies the incident as deliberate actions of unidentified persons," the sources told the agency. The reason for such qualification is the fact that no individual working inside the Soyuz is required to use a drill that could make a 2mm-wide hole. If something like that was done, then it would have been a deliberate act.

According to the source, Soyuz spacecraft are manually assembled. In such situations, if there are any discrepancies in the craft, workers make changes right on the spot using tools like a file. They use extruding molds to make holes, but do not use drills in any case.

It is also worth noting that the production records related to the spacecraft do not mention any work that could have led to the formation of a hole this wide. This, as the report noted, left two possibilities – either someone entered the spacecraft deliberately to make the hole or some urgent work came up and the hole was made mistakenly, leading to a cover-up.

The investigators and the Russian space agency are currently weighing all the possibilities and are expected to present the exact answer to the mystery, maybe even the culprit, around mid-September.