Feeds

NASA on alert: International Space Station springs a leak

Ammonia coolant leaking out into space

Intelligent flash storage arrays

It's going to be a tense 24 hours for the crew of the International Space Station after Commander Chris Hadfield reported that the ammonia coolant used in the station's power systems appears to be leaking into space.

"There's a very steady stream of flakes or bits coming out as the truss is rotating," he said in a discussion with Mission Control. "All of us agree they are coming mainly and repeatedly enough that it looks like a point source that they were coming from."

NASA is now focusing all available cameras on the predicted source of the leak and is waiting for the ISS to move into full sunlight so they can see what's going on. The crew is currently in the station's gym to try and get a better look at the problem.

Chilled ammonia is used on the ISS to cool down the solar arrays that provide electricity for life support and other functions. There have been leaks before in the system, and one spacewalk to effect repairs last year, but this case looks to be more serious and it may be in the same area as the earlier repair.

According to further discussions with the crew, the previously fixed cooling system for one of the solar panels has seen its coolant levels fall from 16 per cent to just 4 per cent within half a day. Meanwhile, the rate of coolant loss has nearly doubled in the last few hours.

Plans to power down the solar array are in place but NASA doesn’t anticipate needing to shut it down for another 24 hours. If the leak worsens overnight (station time) the space agency has contingency plans to manage power systems from the ground without waking the ISS crew.

"Sleep tight," Capsule Communicator Doug Wheelock told the crew, eliciting chuckles all round.

It's unfortunate timing. Hadfield and two other crew members are due to deorbit from the ISS on May 14 and, while NASA can't confirm that date as yet, it told Hadfield that it didn’t anticipate any delays in getting him home on time.

Hadfield reports that the situation is calm, and he took time out on his Twitter feed to congratulate the Saskatchewan Science Teachers Society (SSTS) on their 50th anniversary. He and the five other astronauts will now wait it out, and if they're really unlucky Hadfield might break out the station's guitar and sing them some of his songs. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.