Spacewalk scheduled to fix ISS ammonia leak
Published Friday, May 10, 2013 10:55AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 11, 2013 9:20AM EDT
Crew aboard the International Space Station will conduct a six-hour spacewalk on Saturday after discovering a radiator leak in the power system.
Though NASA says the leak poses no danger to the crew and the station continues to operate normally, the agency confirmed Friday it is sending out some of the crew on a spacewalk to assess the nature of the problem and potentially repair it.
The spacewalk will begin at 8:15 a.m. ET, and is expected to take approximately six hours and fifteen minutes.
The walk will be conducted by crew members Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn.
Cassidy and Marshburn have each conducted three spacewalks – two of which were together.
The crew first noticed small white flakes of ammonia leaking out of the ISS on Thursday. Ammonia is used to cool the power channels that provide electricity to the station’s systems.
The source of the leak is unknown, but the space agency suspects the leak is coming from a pump located at the far left truss of the station. If that’s the case, the astronauts would be able to replace it with a spare pump.
“Our primary objective really is to try to get a look at the leak,” ISS program manager Mike Suffredini said during Friday’s news conference.
NASA would like to conduct the spacewalk sooner than later while the ammonia “snow” is still detectable.
“These cracks or holes or whatever is leaking is very, very small and so once the leak goes down to a point where you don’t see the snow anymore it would be very hard to find,” Suffredini said.
If the leak has current ISS Commander Chris Hadfield worried, he sure isn’t showing it. In fact, the Canadian astronaut thinks plans to repair it are pretty “cool.”
“Good Morning, Earth!” Hadfield tweeted from space Friday morning before plans for the spacewalk had been confirmed. “Big change in plans, spacewalk tomorrow, Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn are getting suits and airlock ready. Cool!”
The ammonia leak prompted the shutdown of one of eight solar panels that power the ISS, but the station can operate with seven.
Power has been rerouted and the system is functioning normally.
Marshburn, Hadfield and Russia’s Roman Romanenko are set to return to Earth on Monday. NASA said the spacewalk does not affect the crew’s departure.