Tag Archives: EVA

Spacesuit problem from January declared solved

NASA has completed its investigation into the spacesuit water leak that forced a January spacewalk to end two hours early by declaring the problem is not serious and needs no significant re-engineering.

However, thanks to the suit being returned to Earth on the Dragon, the problem with [astronaut Tim] Kopra’s suit was deemed to be more an unfortunate coincidence, as opposed to a wider issue with the EMUs [spacesuits] on Station. Mr. Shireman told the ASAP [Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel] that the conclusion reached was that the incident was not an example of the same failure as in the previous water-in-the-helmet instance. “In this case, the likely cause was a combination of both environmental and operational factors that blocked outlet port slurper holes. The finding was that the amount of water was considerably smaller than before, and the conclusion reached was that this was a non-hazardous occurrence, even if it occurs in the future.”

As a result, the NASA team recommended a “go” for nominal and planned EVAs. Two EVAs, with special contingency allowances, were conducted since EVA-35, both without issue.

The whole article reads like a government press release trying to paper over a problem. “Move along, nothing to see here!” While they might have located and solved the problem, this tone makes me very suspicious. They would be smarter to just tell us the story straight, rather acting like NASA cheerleaders

Spacewalk cut short due to spacesuit water leak

Today’s spacewalk at ISS to repair a failed voltage regulator of the station’s power system has been cut short because a water bubble had appeared inside one of the astronaut’s spacesuit.

The astronauts are presently in the airlock about to remove their spacesuits, so it appears they are not in danger. However, this problem is the return of the earlier water leaks inside NASA’s spacesuits, something that the agency had thought it had solved last year. If it has returned, this is of serious concern, since it suggests that they have not yet pinpointed the chronic cause of the problem.

It should be noted that the astronauts had successfully replaced the voltage regulator prior to the premature conclusion of their spacewalk. They had had other less critical tasks on their schedule which they had to forego because of the leak.

An investigation into the dangerous leak of water into a spacesuit during a spacesuit last July has found that NASA engineers had missed an earlier failure of the same suit.

An investigation into the dangerous leak of water into a spacesuit during a spacesuit last July has found that NASA engineers had missed an earlier failure of the same suit.

The leak had first happened in a spacewalk a week earlier, and engineers misdiagnosed the problem. In addition, it appears they didn’t look closely enough at it.

Meanwhile, the investigation has pinpointed the cause of the leak as a clogged filter, but still could not trace what caused that clog.

This news report, confirmed by no other source, claims that the spacewalk this week was cut short because of water in the astronauts’ spacesuits.

This news report, confirmed by no other source, claims that the spacewalk this week was cut short because of water in the astronauts’ spacesuits.

I report this story but am very puzzled. If a water leak was the cause of the shortened spacewalks, I would have expected others to report that fact as well. No one has, however. (See this nasaspaceflight.com article, for example, which outlines the entire engineering situation quite thoroughly but says “both suits performed well during the EVA.”) Moreover, the ABC particular story above is written by someone who is not a space reporter, and contains some incongruities that reflect that, making me even more skeptical.

Yesterday’s spacewalk on ISS, though successful, was cut short because of spacesuit discomfort issues unrelated to the earlier water leak problems.

Yesterday’s spacewalk on ISS, though successful, was cut short because of spacesuit discomfort issues unrelated to the earlier water leak problems.

No story on the spacewalk is entirely clear on the issues. Astronaut Rick Mastracchio was cold, but it seems he also had other problems that have not been outlined clearly. Interestingly he was not using the spacesuit that flooded in July. Michael Hopkins was using that suit and apparently had no problems.

In order to resize the spare suit on the station for Mastracchio they have delayed the next spacesuit for one day.

Fixing the coolant pump on ISS: A close look at what will happen during the upcoming spacewalks.

Fixing the coolant pump on ISS: A close look at what will happen during the upcoming spacewalks.

According to this report, one astronaut will be wearing the spacesuit that leaked water in July. This fact contradicts a previous story that said there were two other suits on the station and that the suspect suit need not be used.

It appears that NASA is planning to go ahead with at least one spacewalk to replace ISS’s faulty coolant system pump.

It appears that NASA is planning to go ahead with at least one spacewalk to replace ISS’s faulty coolant system pump.

After attempts from the inside to restart the malfunctioning cooling loop on the International Space Station failed last night, NASA mission managers have decided a spacewalk will be required to fix the problem, a source privy to NASA operations told TV20 News. NASA mission managers have scheduled the first spacewalk for Dec. 19th, according to the source, with two other spacewalks, also known as EVAs, likely to follow a few days after.

This story is not yet confirmed, but this AP article suggests it might be true.

If a US spacewalk on ISS is necessary to repair its cooling system, the spare parts are there, but the spacesuits are not.

If a US spacewalk on ISS is necessary to repair its cooling system, the spare parts are there, but the spacesuits are not.

Prior to retiring the shuttle NASA, aware that cargo supply would be limited once the shuttle was gone, shipped up to the station as many spare parts as possible. Thus, there are three spare pump modules on ISS that could be installed during a spacewalk to replace the module that has the valve problem.

However, because of the water leak problem that occurred in one American spacesuit during a July spacewalk, NASA has halted all American spacewalks until replacement suits can be shipped up to the station.

Since then, NASA has been conducting extensive investigations into the water leak issue, with… “the crew performed a series of tests on EMU 3011 [the faulty spacesuit] as part of an ongoing effort for returning the suit back to service. The tests included water leak checks, communication checks, and suit pressure leak checks. EMU 3011 passed all tests.”

However, NASA had been planning to wait to return another EMU, serial number 3015, to Earth aboard a SpaceX Dragon vehicle and deliver a new EMU in its place before clearing EVAs to resume. However the next Dragon vehicle is not scheduled to arrive at the ISS until at least late February next year.

The Russians might be able to do this spacewalk, but they are going to demand payment for the work. And they won’t come cheap, considering the circumstances.

A detailed update on the status of spacesuit repairs on ISS, following the July water leak during a spacewalk.

A detailed update on the status of spacesuit repairs on ISS, following the July water leak during a spacewalk.

After additional tools and parts were sent up on both Progress and Cygnus freighters, astronauts on ISS pinpointed the problem and replaced the failed the “fan/pump/separator”. The faulty unit was brought back to Earth for further analysis in the manned Soyuz craft yesterday.

Of the four U.S. spacesuits on ISS, one is still considered faulty and needs to be replaced, which will happen with the next Dragon flight expected sometime in February 2014.

During a five hour EVA that had lots of difficulties, two Russian cosmonauts took the Olympic torch on a spacewalk

During a five hour EVA yesterday that had lots of minor technical difficulties, two Russian cosmonauts took the Olympic torch on a spacewalk.

Most of the press is focusing on the PR stunt with the Olympic torch, but I think these issues are more interesting:

Working around the Service Module, Kotov and Ryazanski worked on cables at the RK21 site before attempting to fold up the panels on the hardware into its original configuration. The EVA tasks were mainly related to the preparations on the Urthecast pointing platform for installation of the HD camera in December. However, only the removal of the launch restraint from VRM EVA workstation and the disconnection of the RK-21 experiment were completed. The duo struggled with the relocation of the Yakor foot restraint – which they opted to take back to the airlock instead – while also failing to fold and lock RK-21 experiment antenna panels. While the spacewalkers managed to take a large quantity of photos for engineers on the ground to examine, the spacewalk was concluded after the failure to fold up the RK-21 panels, resulting in outstanding tasks for the next EVA.

The investigation into the spacesuit leak in July is now awaiting the return of equipment from ISS.

The investigation into the spacesuit leak in July is now awaiting the return of equipment from ISS.

The station astronauts removed a cooling system pump and small contaminants found in the garment’s Primary Life Support System plumbing. The old fan pump separator and the preserved contaminants, including a 1-cm. piece of plastic, will return to Earth aboard Russia’s TMA-09M crew transport late Nov. 10 with Parmitano, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and ISS Russian commander Fyodor Yurchikhin. The hardware and contaminants will then be flown by NASA transport from the Kazakh landing site to Johnson Space Center, where a Mishap Investigation Board (MIB) hopes to quickly complete its probe of the worrisome incident.

Though it appears they have narrowed the problem to a small number of components, the need to return these components to Earth illustrates an overall design flaw with the space spacesuit. When the shuttle was flying regularly these components were easy to return to Earth, which is why NASA designed its suit for maintenance on the ground. Now that the shuttle is gone, however, it is difficult to get components returned, which makes spacesuit maintenance difficult if not impossible.

Spacesuits need to be repairable in space. If you are orbiting Mars and one fails, you can’t call in a repairman from Earth to fix it.

Despite the astronauts’ success on ISS in recreating the spacesuit water leak, NASA engineers still do not know its cause.

Despite the astronauts’ success on ISS in recreating the spacesuit water leak, NASA engineers still do not know its cause.

What is unstated about this problem is that, because we used to have a big space shuttle with lots of cargo capacity, the American spacesuit was designed to be maintained and repaired on the ground. In the past the next space shuttle flight would have brought a new spacesuit to the station while taking this defective suit back to Earth for analysis and repair. Now that we don’t have a big space shuttle, our complex spacesuits are far more difficult to troubleshoot.

The solution? First, keep it simple. The Russians, limited by the capacity of their Progress and Soyuz capsules, made their Orlan spacesuit very simple and easy to use.

Second, get as many redundant replacements of the shuttle operating as soon as possible.

Astronauts on ISS have successfully recreated the water leak in the defective spacesuit that almost drowned an astronaut last month.

Astronauts on ISS have successfully recreated the water leak in the defective spacesuit that almost drowned an astronaut last month.

They now have a very good idea of the components that caused the failure, and will be able to replace these with new parts. The next step will be to test the suit under the same conditions with the new parts.

The Russians have begun a six-hour spacewalk today on ISS to prepare the station for the arrival of a new Russian module.

The Russians have begun a six-hour spacewalk today on ISS to prepare the station for the arrival of a new Russian module.

The article also outlines the continuing investigation into the American spacesuit problem from the last American spacewalk, where an astronaut’s suit began to fill with water from an unknown source. It appears they have pinpointed the most likely cause of the leak, but appear to be having problems recreating the failure.

Update: The Russian spacewalk is over, all tasks completed.