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Oxygen generator on the blink

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The International Space Station's troublesome Elektron oxygen generator is playing up again - despite a recent attempt by a relief crew to repair the Russian-built apparatus.

In October, Salizhan Sharipov and Leroy Chiao brought a kit of spares for the ailing machine which broke down completely in September. The problem was then - as now - identified as gas bubbles in the generator's plumbing.

The two astronauts spent yesterday wrestling with the cantankerous device. NASA reports that:

Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov conducted checks of the system's test panel, then spent several hours purging air from the plumbing lines and flushing the lines with clean water. Gas bubbles that were trapped in the lines dissipated somewhat, but never completely disappeared. Attempts to reactivate the system were unsuccessful, and additional troubleshooting is planned for Thursday.

The Agency adds that "the crew is not affected by the Elektron failure with ample oxygen in the cabin atmosphere and more than four months' worth of reserve oxygen supplies on board".

The ISS does indeed have plenty of reserve oxygen following a resupply on Xmas Day. Sadly, that Yule delivery evidently did not include a tut-tutting plumber with a full set of pipe wrenches. ®

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