International Space Station Cooling System Stops; Astronauts Safe

Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 06:08 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Problems with one of its two cooling systems has forced the International Space Station into a partial shutdown.

A pump connected to the cooling system stopped working Wednesday, a NASA press release said.

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“The pump module on one of the space station’s two external cooling loops automatically shut down when it reached pre-set temperature limits. These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool,” the release said. “The flight control teams worked to get the cooling loop back up and running, and they suspect a flow control valve actually inside the pump module itself might not be functioning correctly.”

Non-critical systems are powered down, and the crew is not in danger as they work to figure out how to correct the problem, NASA said.

If the problem is determined to be in the hardware, it is possible the astronauts will have to make a spacewalk to replace equipment, ABC News said. NASA stopped spacewalks because an Italian astronaut in July had a malfunction in his helmet, which began to fill with about two cups of water.

"At no time was the crew or the station itself in any danger, but the ground teams did work to move certain electrical systems over to the second loop," NASA said.

David Alexander from Rice Space Institute told ABC News that it’s important the electronics don’t overheat, which could jeopardize the station.

A similar problem has occurred within the past two years, ABC said. For now, the space station is stable and ground crews are consulting on how to fix the cooling system problem.

Astronauts continued with their scientific work aboard the station and regular maintenance tasks. NASA said a determination will be made about whether to delay or continue the scheduled Dec. 18 launch of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus commercial cargo craft.

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