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International Space Station's Spacewalkers at Work

NASA astronauts are performing spacewalks to repair a faulty cooling pump on the outside of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronauts are performing spacewalks to repair a faulty cooling pump on the outside of the International Space Station.

Credit: NASA TV

Update (12/21/13): Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are conducting a series of emergency spacewalks beginning this weekend that are intended to correct a critical cooling system failure. The malfunctioning cooling pump prevents overheating of electronics and science experiments aboard the ISS. With one of two cooling pumps shut down, NASA has decided that a series of six-and-a-half-hour spacewalks must be performed to replace the faulty pump with a spare.

The first spacewalk is happening now and started at 7:10 am EST when spacewalkers set up the worksite on the S1 truss. First they will disconnect cables to the faulty pump module and install jumper cables to act as temporary replacements. NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins have suited up and stepped outside to open up insulation covering the pump module, while Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata acts as crane operator, at the helm of the Canadarm2 robotic arm during the spacewalk.

A second spacewalk will take place on Monday at 7:10 am EST, when Mastracchio and Hopkins will remove the dead pump and replace it with a spare module. Meanwhile, Wakata will gingerly choreograph movements of the Canadarm 2 with Mastracchio riding on its end.

If necessary, a third spacewalk will happen on Christmas Day to finish the installation of the spare pump module. Simultaneously, Russian crewmates are now preparing for their own spacewalk scheduled for December 27. Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy will install a foot restraint, install medium- and high-resolution cameras, and change out a pair of external experiments. They will also install a new experiment and a payload boom on the Zvezda service module.

Watch the live spacewalk on NASA TV.

Read the full story on the National Geographic website.

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

Update (12/13/13): The International Space Station’s Expedition 38 crew worked Thursday with the team on the ground to deal with a malfunction that occurred Wednesday on one of the station’s two external cooling loops that uses ammonia to prevent station systems from overheating. 

The station is currently in a stable configuration and the crew is safe. The science and research mission continues aboard the station, and the science data collected so far is not at risk. The Expedition 38 crew members also tackled a variety of other tasks Thursday, including maintenance work and scientific research.

Mission managers have deferred the decision on whether to proceed with or postpone the launch of the Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus commercial cargo craft until more is known about the flow control valve issue. Cygnus is currently scheduled to launch Dec. 18 from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and rendezvous with the station on Dec. 21.

Read the full story on NASA's website


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

At no time was the crew or the space station itself in any danger, but the ground teams did work to move certain electrical systems over to the second loop. The crew is safe and experts on the ground considering what troubleshooting activities may be necessary.

Read the full story on NASA's website.

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