A valve on a pump on one of the station's two external cooling loops shut down because it was too cool Wednesday afternoon, NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said. He said that at no time was the crew at risk. But some non-critical equipment of the massive orbital outpost were powered down.
"It could be a serious problem, but it's not an emergency," Johnson Space Center spokesman Kelly Humphries said.
Engineers suspect a valve inside the pump was faulty and ground controllers moved electrical power supplies to the other cooling loop, Jacobs said. These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep equipment inside and outside cool.
"The station wasn't ever in any danger," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said the crew of two American astronauts, three Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut were preparing to go to bed as normal, while engineers on the ground tried to troubleshoot the problem. The faulty pump and cooling loop did start up again, he said.
Humphries said it was too early to speculate whether a spacewalk would be needed to fix the problem.
The station commander is cosmonaut Oleg Kotov. Americans Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins, Russians Mikhail Tyurin and Sergey Ryazanaskiy, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata are aboard. The orbital outpost, the size of a football field and weighing nearly 1 million pounds, has been in orbit more than 220 miles above Earth since 1998.
NASA released the following statement on the cooling system problem
- Earlier today, the pump module on one of the space station's two external cooling loops automatically shut down when it reached pre-set temperature limits. These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool. The flight control teams worked to get the cooling loop back up and running, and they suspect a flow control valve actually inside the pump itself might not be functioning correctly. At no time was the crew or the station itself in any danger, but the ground teams did work to move certain electrical systems over to the second loop. Some non-critical systems have been powered down inside the Harmony node, the Kibo laboratory and the Columbus laboratory while the teams work to figure out what caused the valve to not function correctly and how to fix it. The crew is safe and preparing to begin a normal sleep shift while experts on the ground collect more data and consider what troubleshooting activities may be necessary.
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