Astronauts on the International Space Station have discovered a leak of ammonia coolant on their orbiting habitat. NASA say they are looking into the problem although they say it poses no immediate danger to the crew, according to the latest reports.
The space station uses chilled liquid ammonia to cool the power systems on the eight huge solar array panels outside. A minor leak was first discovered years ago and in 2012 two astronauts took a spacewalk to fix the problem. They rewired some coolant lines and installed a spare radiator as they suspected the original radiator was damaged by a micrometeorite collision.
The astronauts felt the issue was resolved at the time but yesterday astronauts noticed a steady stream of frozen ammonia flakes leaking from the area of the suspect coolant loop in the Photovoltaic Thermal Control System (PVTCS).
NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries spoke to SPACE.com and said “It is in the same area, but we don’t know whether it’s the same leak.” The website added “Humphries said the agency was taking the leak seriously because it affects an important system — if they lose the ability to cool that particular solar array, it won’t be able to generate power for the station. In fact, the leak has worsened to the point that Mission Control expects that particular loop to shut down within the next 24 hours.”
They said the crew are in no immediate danger and a plan to deal with the problem was yet to be worked out.
Space.com added “”What you guys have provided in the way of imagery and video has been just like gold to us on the ground,” astronaut Doug Wheelock from Mission Control radioed to space station commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut. “We are fairly confident that it’s coming from the vicinity of the TCS.” However, flight contollers noted they were still unable to pinpoint the leak’s exact location.
NASA engineers are reviewing plans to potentially move the station’s robotic arm over to the area of the port truss, the scaffolding-like backbone of the station (the original leak was traced to the Port 6 truss).
“Tomorrow we’ll plan to get the arm in the game to see if we can better pinpoint the location of the leak,” Wheelock said.”
You can read more here.
Kitguru says: Even though it isn’t immediately dangerous, they will need to deal with it sooner rather than later.