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Coolant Glitch Forces Partial Space Station Shutdown

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the its-getting-hot-in-here dept.

ISS 49

astroengine writes "A coolant system glitch on the International Space Station has forced several of the orbital outpost's modules offline as astronauts and ground control manage the problem. The crew are not in danger and ground control teams are currently working to see how best to troubleshoot. The issue, that occurred early on Wednesday, focuses on one of the space station's two external ammonia cooling loops, along which the station's electrical systems use to regulate their temperatures. The loop 'automatically shut down when it reached pre-set temperature limits,' said NASA in a statement. It is thought that a flow control valve in the ammonia pump itself may have malfunctioned."

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Apple (1, Offtopic)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 10 months ago | (#45668499)

This is all iOS's fault.

What do this have to do with X? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45668507)

^ First reaction.

Posting as AC because moderators got no humor. (Or maybe my humor is of little value for the readers.)

Re:What do this have to do with X? (2)

Chas (5144) | about 10 months ago | (#45668565)

Well...

  It's not impossible. I used to bull's-eye womp rats in my t-16 back home. They're not much bigger than 2 meters.

So the Emperor needs to Force Lightning whoever forgot to weld a shield plate over that coolant vent.

Re: What do this have to do with X? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45671107)

What?

  Did a chicken soup machine repairman not fix the driveplate properly?

Re:What do this have to do with X? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45668939)

I believe you are a bit confused; Mir was de-orbited a few years ago. This isn't the space station you're looking for.

Translations Needed (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 10 months ago | (#45668529)

Just so we know, what are the Russian and Japanese translations of "This is *NOT* cool, man!!!!1"

At least is wasn't an evacuation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45668535)

that would not be condusive to life. and what is it they need to be doing up there? space stuff?

Re:At least is wasn't an evacuation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45668755)

Certainly not a premature evacuation.

Re:At least is wasn't an evacuation (1)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#45670113)

Yes, "space stuff", like find and fix the common issues that will eventually crop up in a long-term flight or colonization project. Both Mir and the Shuttle ran into similar issues, so obviously one of the things they need to do before attempting to actually live further out than NEO is create a better cooling system. Not as flashy as building a new booster, but every bit as important.

Components (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45668615)

[annoyed] Components. American components, Russian Components, ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!

This is how we fix problem in the Russian space station! [hits panel with tool]

[space station explodes]
That's why I told you "touch nothing". But you're bunch of cowboys!

Re:Components (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45728181)

No one else liked this, but I liked it. Well played.

Early on Wednesday (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45668671)

occurred early on Wednesday

With a 90 minute orbit, when exactly is that on ISS?

Re:Early on Wednesday (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45668743)

The ISS is on UTC, and "Early Wednesday" presumably means early in one of the US time zones, so I actually can't give you an exact answer anyway because "early" isn't an exact time in the first place.

Re:Early on Wednesday (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#45669235)

Early means the first 8 hours of the day, so it happened between 0000 and 0800 UTC.
Mid UTC is 0800-1600
Late UTC is 1600-2400

Re:Early on Wednesday (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45669497)

You're assuming the NASA release was written with reference to ISS time; I'm not sure that's the case given that news releases are normally intended for the press.

Jinx put Max in space (2)

chromas (1085949) | about 10 months ago | (#45668809)

They should check for kid-friendly robots lurking about.

its a faulty experiment. (4, Funny)

nimbius (983462) | about 10 months ago | (#45668819)

the coolant glitch is a result of a failed experiment in one of the science modules. If anyone watched NASA TV you could clearly hear the conversation up to the event. an astronaut can distinctly be overheard saying, "see, i told you it wont run Crysis"

Soo, it's gonna crash now or no? (1)

Andrey Welsh (3460277) | about 10 months ago | (#45668831)

Very tempting question... Will not repeat.

Re:Soo, it's gonna crash now or no? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 10 months ago | (#45672595)

Yes. [moonbuggy.org] The electronics getting hot and shutting off will, for no apparent reason, expend significant amounts of delta-v, deorbiting the station.

Re:Soo, it's gonna crash now or no? (1)

cbhacking (979169) | about 10 months ago | (#45675927)

I am very, very sorry to report that your link appears to be broken. Was hoping for suitably entertaining image.

Re:Soo, it's gonna crash now or no? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 10 months ago | (#45681249)

Ah, it was one of those "ecard" line drawings of a child on a stool with a dunce cap. It was captioned "There are stupid questions."

Meanwhile... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45668841)

The issue, that occurred early on Wednesday, focuses on one of the space station's two external ammonia cooling loops, along which the station's electrical systems use to regulate their temperatures

Meanwhile, the Russians used a pencil

Re:Meanwhile... (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#45669531)

As it happens, the US and Russians used pencils at first; but concluded that unpredictable addition of conductive graphite dust to the closed interiors of expensive, accident-prone aerospace hardware was a bad plan.

The Russians used grease pencils as a substitute for a while, since the binder keeps the pigment from floating around, and NASA took Fisher up on their offer to test some of their fancy new pressurized pens, which they eventually adopted (as did the Russians).

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#45670065)

The research and development of which Fisher had done on their own initiative and their own dime.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45673863)

The research and development of which Fisher had done on their own initiative and their own dime.

Yep. Don't expect to ever see that again!

Nowadays a pen company would move to a state which promised them ten years of negative taxes (in order to "create jobs" and "compete with other states") and then get a federal grant for research in space pennery (as well as a tax credit for the entire sum of the grant, and the construction costs of all their buildings in the new state) and after five years they'd close down the plant, outsource production to China, and sell the intellectual property to a giant multinational corporation. At which point the criminals-in-chief would either buy immunity (by buying Congressmen and Supremes) or relocate to a 3rd world tax haven... before the first post-divestiture income and capital gains taxes came due.

Coming up with new ideas for turning raw materials into product is so last century, man. The new business model is to plunder states' treasuries and sell out. All you have to do is hate the rest of the human race and it's easy! GREED IS GOOD!

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 10 months ago | (#45674633)

Yeah, pretty much.

But is there some reason we can't use "SCOTUS" as an abbreviation? "Supremes" makes me think of either the 60s musical group, or some sort of Japanese mecha robot team a la Supreme Ultra Mega Iron Defenders of Earth.

If memory serves (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 10 months ago | (#45668983)

Mir had the same problem on a number of occasions so sounds pretty routine as space station problems go.

Re:If memory serves (2)

peragrin (659227) | about 10 months ago | (#45669183)

in the ars article it mentions the coolant valves as one of 14 problems that come up regularly and are expected to be issues now and in the future.

or for a car analogy, even though you change your oil on a regular basis every once in a while you have to change the transmission oil too.

Re:If memory serves (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#45669541)

It's the scary kind of 'routine', since cooling failure (on a spacecraft that gets a pretty good dose of solar radiation and has no atmosphere for cooling purposes) will definitely render the station incompatible with human life in fairly short order, possibly even get it toasty enough to destroy some of the less robust hardware; but, unfortunately, pumped coolant loops running in space are kind of touchy. Pity that Peltiers are so miserably inefficient and power hungry...

Re:If memory serves (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 10 months ago | (#45674751)

How to dissipate heat in a near-vacuum sounds like an interesting engineering problem.

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2001/ast21mar_1/ [nasa.gov]

I managed to stay with them right up to the point where they said they radiated the excess heat into space...I thought that this entire setup hinged on the idea that vacuum doesn't conduct heat? Or is it like diffusion where heat wants to spread evenly, only in this case the diffused-to location is near absolute zero?

Re:If memory serves (1)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#45675419)

Right, there is no conduction because there there is no air/water/dirt to conduct the heat away. Instead they have to radiate the heat away into space, a process which is much less efficient. The cooling system panels glow in the infrared like crazy.

Re:If memory serves (1)

DanZ23 (901353) | about 10 months ago | (#45671325)

Since it is so routine, I would think they would want to do it in a more preventative manner instead of waiting until critical systems have to be rerouted or shut down.

Re:If memory serves (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 10 months ago | (#45671367)

In space that's a luxury.

Where is Geordie? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 10 months ago | (#45669003)

Isn't a coolant leak, the reason to evacuate the engineering bay in ST:TNG?
It is almost like they didn't want the engineers to come up with a plot resolving fix, just yet.

Re:Where is Geordie? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#45669555)

Somebody should really just tamper with the instruments on the ground. We all know that Mission Control is going to rerout the power to the secondary flux controller at the last moment; but they are waiting for the big bank of intimidating gauges and colored lights to show that only moments remain. We could save a lot of time by installing a 'false indication of crisis' feature to spur them to action ahead of time.

Re:Where is Geordie? (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 10 months ago | (#45673279)

Is there a feminine voice counting down the seconds to meltdown, yet?

Can't be fixed until 00:00:01

Re:Where is Geordie? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 10 months ago | (#45672741)

AFAIK the coolants that would be used in that setting would be highly radioactive and/or toxic or extraordinarily hot - think "primary loop" reactor coolant. What the ISS is having problems with is more like the water cooling stuff in your car or PC (if you've a water-cooled CPU/GPU)

Re:Where is Geordie? (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 10 months ago | (#45674815)

Companies seem to have a tendency to use extremely toxic chemicals wherever they don't expect humans to need to access the internals of the system...some nonsense about nature being inconvenient... :)

Thermostat is stuck open (2)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 10 months ago | (#45669479)

always happens in winter.

Get out the lasers! (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 10 months ago | (#45669569)

Kind of funny to think of overheating in space, isn't it freezing cold out there? No conductor for the heat I suppose. Anyway, maybe this explains why self-replicating space probes haven't taken over everything, it gets too hot out there. Perhaps it is time to rig up some laser cooling [wired.com] on the ISS.

Re:Get out the lasers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45670625)

In fact, when our shuttles would complete orbital insertion, they would have to turn belly up and open the cargo doors in order to cool. If they doors didn't open they would do an immediate abort. Considering the payload would be stuck the mission would be a scrub anyways.

Re:Get out the lasers! (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 10 months ago | (#45672887)

I'm surprised they didn't have some kind of coolant media they could vent across exchangers to dump heat - you wouldn't need to carry very much, and you (generally...) only launch once on a mission.

Re:Get out the lasers! (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45670643)

Space is very cold but it's also an almost-perfect vacuum, so like the coffee I put in my thermos five hours ago, hot objects can't cool easily. Objects making their own heat such as space stations and astronauts can be at a quite serious risk of overheating, especially if they're also being warmed by the sun.

Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45670015)

Was this the same coolant loop where the pump was replaced in an unscheduled space walk a few months back? Does this fall under lemon laws?

This Old House (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45671093)

Need to send the crew for for a re-fab do-over. Love to see Marv sawing 2x4s and Larry slapping putty on the walls. :-)

Space is cold (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45671631)

What dumb dumbs.

Sounds like a cover story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45671879)

It's probably just the Wolowitz zero-gravity waste disposal system acting up again.

isn't ammonia in cleaning products? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45672443)

never knew ammonia is a coolant. I always thought it is a gas in cleaning products. Ammonia or azane is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula NH3. It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. Now I'm confused.

Re:isn't ammonia in cleaning products? (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 9 months ago | (#45730657)

Ammonia was one of the first coolants used more commonly in food industry, my brother has been wanting to get an air conditioner for his home that uses ammonia refrigerant but they are mostly commercial.

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