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ISS Bug NASA Space Hardware

Coolant Glitch Forces Partial Space Station Shutdown 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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Coolant Glitch Forces Partial Space Station Shutdown

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    ^ First reaction.

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

    • by Chas ( 5144 )


        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.

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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    occurred early on Wednesday

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

    • 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.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        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

        • 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.

  • by chromas ( 1085949 ) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @05:49AM (#45668809)
    They should check for kid-friendly robots lurking about.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @05:53AM (#45668819) Homepage

    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"

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

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

        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?

        • by cusco ( 717999 )

          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.

    • by DanZ23 ( 901353 )

      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.

  • 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.

    • 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.
    • 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)

      • 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... :)

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @08:51AM (#45669479)
    always happens in winter.
  • 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 [] on the ISS.
    • 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.

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