An external leak at the International Space Station (ISS) has prompted NASA to change the date of an upcoming spacewalk and postpone another until later this year.
The issue involves a coolant leak from a backup radiator attached to the outside of Russia’s Nauka module. It was spotted at the start of last week but has now stopped.
NASA said on Monday that the coolant is not toxic or hazardous for the crew, but added that “experts are discussing how to best keep small traces of the substance from getting into some internal systems to avoid equipment degradation over time.”
With a review of the situation continuing, NASA officials have decided to push the spacewalk scheduled for Thursday, October 19, to later this year. The tasks planned for the spacewalk are not time-sensitive so changing the date does not affect ISS operations.
The second spacewalk has been rescheduled for Monday, October 30, and will see NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli both embark on their first-ever excursions outside the station.
The pair will complete the removal of a faulty electronics box, called a Radio Frequency Group, from a communications antenna bracket and replace one of twelve Trundle Bearing Assemblies on the port truss Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, NASA said. The bearings allow the space station’s solar arrays to rotate so they’re able to track the sun as the ISS orbits the Earth.
In the other spacewalk that is now waiting to be rescheduled, O’Hara and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen have a rather more unusual mission as they will collect samples from the station’s exterior in a bid to discover if any microorganisms exist there. They’ll also replace a high-definition camera on the port truss of the station and carry out some maintenance work in preparation for future spacewalks.
The leak isn’t the first to affect ISS operations in recent times. Last December, a Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station suffered a coolant leak after apparently being struck by a tiny meteoroid. The incident led to the stay of NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts being extended by six months while a replacement spacecraft was arranged.
It’s not yet known what caused the recent leak on the radiator attached to the Nauka module.
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