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Space Station crew is still searching for air leak

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are having trouble tracking down the source of an air leak aboard the orbiting outpost.

The leak first came to light in September 2019 but at the time wasn’t considered a top priority. But in recent months the rate of leakage has started to increase, prompting NASA to focus on finally resolving the issue.

However, despite ongoing efforts, the three astronauts currently aboard the station — American Chris Cassidy, and Russians Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin — haven’t been able to pinpoint the location of the air leak.

Tweeting about the matter on Thursday, September 24, Cassidy noted how the crew spent a recent weekend isolated in the Russian segment of the space station while pressurization tests were carried out in the rest of the facility in a bid to track down the leak.

The tests failed to offer any breakthrough, so for the last few days Cassidy and Ivanishin have been checking the station’s window seals using an ultrasonic leak detector.

But, so far, they still haven’t been able to find the source. This means that this weekend NASA will once again conduct pressurization tests aboard the station, meaning the three crew members will have to once again isolate in the Russian segment.

So far no luck finding the source, but it looks like we will try again with the module isolation this weekend. No harm or risk to us as the crew, but it is important to find the leak we are not wasting valuable air.

— Chris Cassidy (@Astro_SEAL) September 24, 2020

NASA describes the inhabitable space aboard the space station as around the same as “a five-bedroom house or two Boeing 747 jetliners,” so, if the astronauts are forced to conduct a more meticulous search, it could be a while yet before the issue is fixed.

The space agency is keen to point out that in its current state, the leak poses no threat to the safety of the Expedition 63 members or to the integrity of the space station itself. But it’s clearly something that NASA and its Russian counterpart want to sort out in case it becomes a more serious problem down the line.

For a closer look inside the International Space Station, check out these virtual tours.

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