December 12, 2013
Coolant Issues Force Partial Shutdown Of ISS
[ Watch the video: Space Station Cooling Loop Update ]
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A malfunction and potential coolant link on the International Space Station (ISS) forced the crew to disable some non-critical systems, the Associated Press (AP), the Washington Post and other media outlets have reported.
“Earlier Wednesday, the pump module on one of the space station’s two external cooling loops automatically shut down when it reached pre-set temperature limits,” NASA officials said in a statement late Wednesday. “These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool.”
“The flight control teams worked to get the cooling loop back up and running, and they suspect a flow control valve actually inside the pump module itself might not be functioning correctly,” the US space agency added. “Some non-critical systems have been powered down inside the Harmony node, the Kibo laboratory and the Columbus laboratory while the teams work to figure out what caused the valve to not function correctly and how to fix it.”
Agency spokesman Kelly Humphries told AP’s Seth Borenstein that the problem could ultimately be a concern, but the issue is not serious at this time. NASA engineers are currently attempting to determine whether the issue was a software problem, or if it was the result of hardware issues.
According to FoxNews.com, there was no immediate danger to the six crew members (three Russians, two Americans and one Japanese) currently stationed on the orbiting laboratory. Humphries said at this point, it is too early to tell whether or not a spacewalk might be necessary in order to correct the problem.
In the meantime, NASA officials said the space station will be able to remain in its current configurations while engineers work on a fix, The Guardian reported on Wednesday. That process could take up to two weeks. A coolant leak that occurred back in May required a pair of astronauts to take part in a spacewalk to fix the problem, they added.
“Engineers suspect a valve inside the pump was faulty and ground controllers moved electrical power supplies to the other cooling loop,” FoxNews.com said, noting that the information came from NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs. “These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep equipment inside and outside cool. The crew was reported to be preparing to begin a normal sleep shift while experts on the ground collect more data and consider what troubleshooting activities may be needed.”