Tag Archives: spacesuit

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.

NASA engineers have decided to go ahead with a series of spacewalks to repair the ISS cooling system, thereby delaying the Cygnus cargo mission until January.

NASA engineers have decided to go ahead with a series of spacewalks to repair the ISS cooling system, thereby delaying the Cygnus cargo mission until January.

The EVAs will take place on December 21, 23 and 25 followed by a Russian Spacewalk on the 27th and a Beta-Angle Cut-out beginning on December 29. That means that the earliest launch opportunity for Cygnus is January 9, 2014 (local time) – pending the successful execution of the contingency EVAs.

Update: The Orbital Sciences press announcement says their launch can happen no earlier than January 13.

The coolant systems failure on ISS might delay next week’s Cygnus cargo mission.

The coolant systems failure on ISS might delay next week’s Cygnus cargo mission.

[T]he reduced cooling capability means there’s less of a safety margin on the station. Todd said mission managers don’t want to risk having the Cygnus come in for a hookup under such conditions. “While we’re sitting at one loop, we’re somewhat vulnerable,” he said.

The logic here escapes me. It suggests they will stop all cargo missions to ISS until the coolant problem is solved. However, what if they can’t solve it without a spacewalk? To do that spacewalk they have to deliver an upgraded spacesuit to the station to replace the suit that had water leak problems in July, and that delivery is not scheduled until late February when the next Dragon cargo launch is scheduled.

Maybe they are considering putting that replacement suit on the Cygnus capsule so it can arrive quickly. If so, that would justify delaying the Cygnus launch for a few days.

More details about the situation here.

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.

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.

NASA has initiated a second investigation board looking into last week’s spacesuit incident on ISS.

NASA has initiated a second investigation board looking into last week’s spacesuit incident on ISS.

The investigations will run concurrently, with the second having a broader purpose, looking into “maintenance, quality assurance, and any operations that could have had a role.”

NASA is trying get some spare spacesuit parts onto a Russian Progress freighter, scheduled to launch Saturday, in its effort to fix its American spacesuits on ISS.

NASA is trying get some spare spacesuit parts onto a Russian Progress freighter, scheduled to launch Saturday, in its effort to fix its American spacesuits on ISS.

It must be emphasized that NASA still doesn’t know exactly what caused the water leak into that spacesuit during a spacewalk last week.

Engineers continue to struggle to find the cause of the spacesuit water leak during a spacewalk last week.

Engineers continue to struggle to find the cause of the spacesuit water leak during a spacewalk last week.

They have eliminated many possible causes, but have not found any clear culprit. The consequence right now? No EVAs with an American spacesuit can occur until they solve the problem.