21 August 2020 News

A small air leak has been found on the International Space Station, says NASA

The rate of air loss aboard the ISS has
The rate of air loss aboard the ISS has "slightly increased," NASA said Thursday, but stressed it presents no immediate danger to the crew or the space station. Image: NASA

A very small but steady air leak that has been apparent on the International Space Station since September 2019 is now being investigated and crew members Chris Cassidy, Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin, will spend this weekend huddled inside the station's Zvezda service module helping to look for the source of the leak.

In a NASA blog post, the agency said both America and Russia were "working a plan to isolate, identify, and potentially repair the source,” and stressed that the leak is still within segment specifications. It presents no immediate danger to the crew or the space station, NASA added.

The atmosphere in the off-word laboratory is normally maintained at a pressure comfortable for the crew members to go about their daily work.

But, says NASA, over time, a tiny bit of air leaks out requiring the station to undergo routine repressurisation from nitrogen tanks delivered on cargo resupply missions.

However, nearly a year ago, a slight increase above the normal air leak rate was noticed by NASA and its international partners.

The ISS is a busy spot and it has taken time in between spacewalks and spacecraft arrivals and departures to gather enough data to see what is going on.

It is not known if the leak is in the US or Russian segment, so the space station hatches will be battened down this weekend and mission controllers will carefully monitor the air pressure in each module to determine which is experiencing a higher-than-normal leak rate.

Cassidy, Vagner and Ivanishin, will stay in the Russian Zvezda service module from Friday night to Monday morning (21–24 August) while the investigation is ongoing.

“The three station residents will have plenty of room in Zvezda this weekend,” says NASA. “The module provides the living quarters that enabled permanent human habitation to begin nearly 20 years ago when the Expedition 1 crew arrived at the station 2 November, 2000.”

The crew members will also have access to their Soyuz MS-16 crew ship which could whisk them back to Earth in the event of a problem; though it is unlikely it will be needed for that purpose this weekend.

This is not the first leak to be connected with the ISS in recent years. In August 2018, a small air leak was discovered in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station.

The 2 millimetre hole in the Soyuz hull was eventually attributed to human error rather than a micro-meteorite impact, although a final determination of the cause was never publicly made.

The method for sealing the Soyuz leak – a cloth and some glue – was later patented by Russian rocket firm RSC Energia.

If you've enjoyed reading this article, please consider subscribing to ROOM Space Journal to gain full access to current articles and receive your own print and/or digital copies of ROOM delivered direct to your door or electronically.

Popular articles

Popular articles

Some 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water and over 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation. Global monitoring of potable water can identify issues of water security for certain regions, water pipeline monitoring can help to identify problems and leaks in water systems and weather monitoring satellites can forewarn of potentially hazardous conditions that could affect waterways and systems. Astronautics

Space in support of sustainable development

A graphic simulation of the Starlink constellation, visualising the ground tracks of around 11,500 satellites between 2019 and 2033 (with guesses for the timing of the deployment of the remaining orbital shells, which determines the order in the plot). Opinion

Congested, contested... under-regulated and unplanned