AI News, ISS Repair Space Walk: A Glimpse Into the Station's Future

ISS Repair Space Walk: A Glimpse Into the Station's Future

6 August 2010—The dramatic emergency-repair space walks assigned to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) signify much more than the repair itself.

Without the heat-removal services of the pump, the redundant second-pump system was unable to transfer all the waste heat from the station’s electrical power usage to exterior radiators that dump the heat into deep space.

”The criteria for tasks being added to this list,” NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries explains, ”is that the failure of the function provided by the [unit] causes a situation placing the ISS in a configuration that is zero tolerant [to some further failures].” In other words, if this thing breaks, the astronauts had better hope nothing else does before they get the system fixed.

(Critical life-support functions have more levels of redundancy, so they don’t have to be fixed as quickly.) Ten involve keeping the primary electrical power system running, by replacing switching units, distribution hubs, and controller assemblies for power generation, storage, and distribution units.

Since the first unit failed about 80 000 hours into a predicted MTBF of 100 000 hours, and no known single cause could induce both pumps to fail at about the same time, a second failure would require some extraordinary bad luck.

But such bad luck isn’t unknown in the history of manned spaceflight, so top priority was given to preparing for worst-case scenarios like losing a second cooling loop during the first loop’s repair space walk.

Last, some internal equipment can still operate at intervals of 6 to 8 hours even when the pumps aren’t working, especially if astronauts use ad hoc measures, such as swinging equipment away from its wall mounts to surround it with the station’s air flow or wrapping it in cool-water bags or even ice packs.

Once the specific repair is settled on, the orbiting astronauts can then sharpen their skills on simulators and practice panels in the space station while watching videos of fellow astronauts performing the desired operations in simulators on Earth.

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