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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Space Station Error Prompts Shutdowns - NYTimes.com

International Space StationImage by http2007 via Flickr
Space Station Error Prompts Shutdowns - NYTimes.com

One of two critical cooling systems aboard the International Space Station malfunctioned late on Saturday, setting off alarms and triggering an extensive reduction in power. Mission managers gave tentative approval on Sunday to plans for a complex two-spacewalk repair job late this week.

The cooling system, which dissipates heat generated by the lab’s electronics, initially shut down around 8 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday when a circuit breaker tripped, setting off warning alarms that awoke the crew. With reduced cooling, flight controllers were forced to shut down two of the space station’s four stabilizing gyroscopes, used to help control the lab’s orientation; one communications channel; and several computer control units.

The station’s flight engineers, Col. Douglas H. Wheelock of the Army and Tracy E. Caldwell Dyson, also had to install jumpers between the Russian Zarya propulsion module and the United States segment of the station to prevent additional cooling problems.

NASA officials said the station’s six-member crew — including a third American, Shannon Walker, and three Russians, the commander Aleksandr Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko and Fyodor Yurchikhin — was not in any immediate danger. But the loss of a cooling system will cripple station operations until the problem can be resolved.

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