Cooling System On International Space Station Is Leaking, Crew Members Are Safe: NASA

By Gopi Chandra Kharel on May 10, 2013 2:01 AM EDT

ISS Leak
Expedition 35 Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov translates outside the International Space Station on April 19, 2013, during the first spacewalk of the Expedition 35 mission. (Photo: http://www.nasa.gov/news/index)

The chilled ammonia coolant that the International Space Station uses to cool its power systems in the space is leaking, although there is no apparent danger to the crew members, news have emerged.

NASA has announced that the crew members used handheld cameras and Mission Control used external television cameras to narrow down the exact location of the ammonia leak outside station.

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"The crew reports, along with imagery and data received by flight controllers in Mission Control in Houston, confirmed that the rate of the ammonia leaking from this section of the cooling system has increased," a release from NASA read.

The 6-member crew of the Expedition 35 reported seeing small flakes of ammonia floating from an area of the International Space Station's P6 truss structure at around 10: 30 a.m. Thursday. The station's power channels that provide electricity to the systems are cooled with the help of ammonia.

NASA explained that each solar array has its own independent cooling loop, and the leaking ammonia loop is the same one that was leaked earlier and spacewalkers had attempted to troubleshoot it during a spacewalk Nov.1 2012. The crew members have not yet confirmed if the increased flow of ammonia is from the same leak.

"The station continues to operate normally otherwise and the crew is in no danger," NASA confirmed.

Chris Hadfield, a Canadian Astronaut who is currently the Commander of Expedition 35 and one of the crew members of the ISS, tweeted, "Station's power relies on ammonia coolant. A few hours ago, we determined that the ammonia was leaking out of the station and into space."

"It is a serious situation, but between crew and experts on the ground, it appears to have been stabilized. Tomorrow we find out for certain," he added in another tweet moments later. 

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