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NASA battles air leak aboard the space station

Posted on Tuesday, 25 August, 2020 | Comment icon 10 comments

Fortunately the leak does not pose any immediate threat. Image Credit: NASA
American astronauts on the ISS have been sleeping in the Russian segment while the leak is investigated.
Two years on from the infamous, unexplained leak aboard a Soyuz spacecraft docked at the ISS, NASA has reported that another leak has been detected and its source still remains a mystery.

The leak was actually first noticed in September 2019, however at the time the air loss was very slight and it has taken until now for the issue to become serious enough to warrant direct investigation.

Finding the location of a tiny leak on such a large orbital outpost however is no easy task.

While NASA ground crews carried out their investigation, the US astronauts were forced to spend the last few nights in the Russian segment with cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
While it was thought that the source would have been found by the beginning of this week, the space agency later confirmed that additional time would be needed to pinpoint the leak.

"All of the orbiting lab's hatches will remain closed until Tuesday morning to give ground specialists additional time to collect data and monitor pressure readings in each module," NASA wrote. "The rate is still well within segment specifications and presents no danger to the crew or the space station."

Sure enough, the hatch between the two sections of the station opened as planned this morning, however NASA will continue to monitor the situation closely.

"Because of routine station operations like spacewalks and spacecraft arrivals and departures, it took time to gather enough data to characterize those measurements," the space agency wrote.

"That rate has slightly increased, so the teams are working a plan to isolate, identify and potentially repair the source."

Source: | Comments (10)

Tags: ISS, Leak

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by acute on 21 August, 2020, 21:00
Stick some chewing gum in the hole. Job done!
Comment icon #2 Posted by OverSword on 21 August, 2020, 23:36
Comment icon #3 Posted by seanjo on 22 August, 2020, 6:19
They seem relaxed about it, I wouldn't be, my first thought was, the station is getting on a bit and that could be a crack propagating.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 22 August, 2020, 6:27
They are relaxed because they know it's not a big issue. As the o.p. says: There is always a slight loss of air, it's just that the amount is slightly higher than normal. So slight, in fact, that it's taken 11 months to confirm it. As the o.p. also says, the air loss is still within specification, so no major issue.
Comment icon #5 Posted by seanjo on 22 August, 2020, 7:58
"Know" is a strong word, they believe it is not a big issue, they won't know until they track it down.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Jon the frog on 25 August, 2020, 19:31
Any bogus is a serious situation in space. Nice that the ISS is always manned so the can search and solve problems. Imagining problems existing for months before a crew can arrive to sort it out. But worse.. the administration conundrum of sending a crew in an empty station that have problems before they arrive.  
Comment icon #7 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 25 August, 2020, 19:58
Not true. They know how big the leak is. They know how big a leak constitutes a problem and they know that this leak is within the specifications of the station, therefore they know that, currently, and for the foreseeable future, they don't have a big problem. NASA don't make decisions based on belief, they make them based on evidence.  The issue is not currently one of safety, it is one of economics. The station ALWAYS loses a little of its air. That air is replenished by visiting freight craft, such as Progress, Cygnus and Dragon. Sending extra air means more launch weight for the freight c... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 25 August, 2020, 20:10
I really don't see your point here. You seem to be arguing that sending a crew to a station with a known problem is more dangerous than a crew experiencing an unexpected problem. If that is your argument it seems to go against all logic and commonsense.  If a station is not crewed then no one is in danger. If a repair crew is sent to a leaking space station then they would go there fully equipped and trained to face the issues.  Skylab was damaged during launch in 1973. The first crew launch was delayed so the situation could be assessed. They were then launched to repair the station, which th... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by South Alabam on 25 August, 2020, 21:23
Once they isolate the modules to find which one is leaking, I bet it is still a challenge to find where. But no doubt, they will find it.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Jon the frog on 26 August, 2020, 13:48
If a crew is already there, they have the chance to look at the problem and resolve it, or bail out. I talk more about the administration problem to send people in an unknown situation. They have to go into risk management, look if the situation is stable enough and if a ship docking could spell disaster. Right now they have a crew up there, it's a way easier and faster to find the problem and sort it out so if a repair crew need to go up, they will have all the information for the job at hand. So I talk about the administration conundrum of launching a crew for repair in a unknown situation .... [More]

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