July 24, 2013
NASA Announces Special Team Will Investigate ISS Spacesuit Malfunction
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
On July 16, the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) had to cut short a spacewalk designed to address several issues because of a helmet malfunction. That malfunction has led to NASA appointing a board to investigate the early termination, develop a set of lessons learned from the incident and suggest ways to prevent a similar problem in the future.
Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano reported a buildup of water in the back of his helmet during the extra-vehicular activity (EVA). As redOrbit's Lawrence LeBlond reported, the EVA was officially ended after one hour and 32 minutes, making it the second shortest spacewalk in ISS history. The original parameters called for the EVA to last 6.5 hours. By the time Parmitano and American astronaut Chris Cassidy reentered the ISS safely, 1.5 quarts of water had accumulated in Parmitano's suit.
In coordination with a NASA engineering team already examining the spacesuit and life support equipment that malfunctioned during the excursion, the investigation board will begin work on August 2, with Chris Hansen, ISS chief engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, as the chair.
Hansen will be joined by four other board members: Mike Foreman, NASA astronaut, Johnson Space Center; Richard Fullerton, International Space Station safety and mission assurance lead, Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, NASA Headquarters; Sudhakar Rajula, human factors specialist, Johnson Space Center; and Joe Pellicciotti, chief engineer, NASA Engineering and Safety Center, Goddard Space Flight Center. They will also have access to experts and support personnel, including a liaison from the European Space Agency (ESA).
The mission of the board is to gather relevant information, analyze facts, conduct any necessary tests, identify the cause or causes of the anomaly and any contributing factors, and make recommendations to the NASA administrator to prevent similar incidents from occurring during future spacewalks. Their investigation will run parallel to the engineering analysis already in progress.
The engineering team's focus is to resolve equipment issues in order to enable US spacewalks to resume. The mishap investigation board, on the other hand, will take a broad look at past operations and maintenance, quality assurance, aspects of flight control and other organizational factors in order to make recommendations that can be applied to improve the overall safety of all NASA's human spaceflight activities.