NASA suspects bad valve for space station trouble (Update)

Dec 12, 2013 by Marcia Dunn
In this frame grab from video provided by NASA, two Russian flight engineers perform maintenance on the International Space Station, Monday, June 24, 2013. NASA said Dec. 11, 2013, it is looking into a problem with a malfunctioning cooling pump on the International Space Station, but there is no immediate danger to the six crewmen on board. Agency spokesman Kelly Humphries says the problem may eventually be serious, but is not an emergency at the moment. (AP Photo/NASA)

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station dimmed the lights, turned off unnecessary equipment and put off science work Thursday as NASA scrambled to figure out what's wrong with a key cooling unit.

One of two identical cooling loops shut down Wednesday when the line got too cold because of a faulty valve. The system uses ammonia to dissipate heat from on-board equipment.

Mission Control ordered the six-man crew to turn off some science experiments and other non-critical equipment; the powerdown continued Thursday.

NASA officials stressed that the astronauts remained safe and comfortable.

The suspect valve is inside an external pump that was replaced by spacewalking astronauts three years ago. Flight controllers are looking at ways to fix the valve. A software repair would be the easiest option, a spacewalk the most complicated. In fact, three spacewalks were needed back in 2010 for the pump replacement.

The valve can't be reached so the entire pump would have to be replaced with one of the spares at the space station.

Kenny Todd, a space station manager, said the orbiting outpost is left "somewhat vulnerable" with only one good cooling line. There's always the possibility of additional failures, he noted, which is why Mission Control wants the problem fixed soon.

Todd said it's possible that next week's launch of a commercial cargo ship, from Wallops Island, Virginia, may need to be delayed. Liftoff of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned Antares rocket, with a Cygnus capsule full of supplies and experiments, is scheduled for Wednesday.

Space station managers will reconvene Monday to decide whether to delay the delivery mission.

"At this point, for lack of a better term, we're going to kick the can for a little bit and go let the team work a little bit more," Todd said.

U.S. spacewalks have been on hold since July, when an Italian astronaut almost drowned because of a water leak in his helmet. The problem was traced to the cooling system for his suit, but NASA wants the entire outfit returned to Earth before closing the matter. That won't happen until a SpaceX Dragon capsule is launched in February; it's the only cargo ship capable of returning items to Earth.

"We're a lot smarter now" regarding the spacesuit trouble, Todd said. Safety procedures are in place to prevent a recurrence, he added

Two Americans are aboard the orbiting lab, as well as three Russians and a Japanese astronaut.

Explore further: NASA: Cooling pump on space station shuts down

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA: Cooling pump on space station shuts down

Dec 12, 2013

NASA said Wednesday it was looking into a problem with a malfunctioning cooling pump on the International Space Station, but there was no immediate danger to the two American astronauts, three Russian cosmonauts, ...

Astronauts remove troublesome cargo container

Apr 15, 2010

(AP) -- After struggling for hours with a balky latching system, shuttle Discovery's astronauts successfully removed a cargo carrier from the International Space Station on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Europe sat-nav launch glitch linked to frozen pipe

5 hours ago

A frozen fuel pipe in the upper stage of a Soyuz launcher likely caused the failure last month to place two European navigation satellites in orbit, a source close to the inquiry said Wednesday.

Cyanide ice in Titan's atmosphere

7 hours ago

Gigantic polar clouds of hydrogen cyanide roughly four times the area of the UK are part of the impressive atmospheric diversity of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, a new study led by Leiden Observatory, ...

Video: Alleged meteor caught on Russian dash cam (again)

11 hours ago

Thanks to the ubiquity of dashboard-mounted video cameras in Russia yet another bright object has been spotted lighting up the sky over Siberia, this time a "meteor-like object" seen on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 27.

User comments : 0