WASHINGTON – NASA says it is still unsure of the source of a small air leak on the International Space Station after the crew spent a second weekend confined to a single module there.
The Expedition 63 crew of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Roscosmos Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner remained inside the Zvezda module in the Russian segment of the station from the evening of September 25 until the morning of September 28. they have all been closed in an attempt to identify which one has a small, but not critical, air leak.
In a September 28 briefing on the upcoming Northrop Grumman NG-14 Cygnus cargo mission to the station, a NASA official said the weekend isolation in the Zvezda module failed to immediately locate the source of the leak. “As of this morning, there was no clear indication of where the leak was,”
This was the second time that the ISS crew has confined themselves to Zvezda in an attempt to trace the loss. A month earlier, the three had also spent a weekend in Zvezda with the other sealed modules trying to locate the leak. “After the three days, there was no indication of where the loss was coming from,” Dorth said.
The latter test, he said, featured some “slightly different configurations” in both the US and Russian segments, although it didn’t delve into the differences between the two tests. Additionally, Cassidy used an ultrasonic leak detector to see if the leak was from Zvezda herself.
The loss, he stressed, does not represent a risk to the crew or to the station itself. “It’s a very, very small leak. It’s an impact on our supplies, but we have planned for that. We can deal with the leak as we continue the investigation.”
Cassidy made the same point a series of tweets of the leak just before he and his teammates spent the weekend isolated in Zvezda. “No harm or risk to us as a crew, but it is important to find the leak [so] we are not wasting precious air, “he wrote.
The space station controllers took advantage of a relatively quiet time on the station in an attempt to locate the leak, which was first detected a year ago. Only three people are on the station, which makes it possible for them to stay in one module. Additionally, no spacecraft have visited the station since the departure of an HTV cargo vehicle on August 18.
But things will soon change. The launch of the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to launch October 1 from Wallops Island, Virginia, and arrive at the station early October 4. That mission “marks the beginning of a month of very heavy vehicle traffic on the ISS,” Dorth said.
This traffic includes the launch of a new Soyuz spacecraft on October 14 with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov on board. This will be followed by the undocking of the Soyuz currently at the station on 21 October, the return of Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner.
A SpaceX Crew Dragon is now scheduled to launch on October 31st with NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi. This will bring the station crew to seven for the foreseeable future. The launch was scheduled for October 23, but NASA said on September 28 that they were moving the launch to relieve it with Soyuz launch and landing operations and provide more time “to ensure the closure of all open works, both at land and aboard station “before the launch of the Crew-1.