NASA has canceled a spacewalk planned for Thursday (Oct. 12) following a space station leak detected earlier this week. NASA officials called off the planned International Space Station (ISS) spacewalk on Wednesday (Oct. 11).
As a precautionary measure after a leak of ammonia coolant was spotted Monday (Oct. 9) in a backup radiator on the Russian Nauka science module. Another spacewalk on Oct. 20 is also postponed and new dates will be announced shortly, NASA officials stated.
“NASA engineering and flight control teams are continuing to review data and video” from the leak, officials said in an update Wednesday, saying NASA will wait until the review is complete before authorizing the planned spacewalks.
“The leak has now ceased,” they added, “as was reported by Roscosmos flight controllers and evidenced by NASA external station camera views, which show only residual coolant droplets.”
Spacewalks taking place with floating ammonia flakes present often need extra steps to avoid contamination of equipment or astronauts. The cause of the leak remains under investigation.
Separately, the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced Tuesday via Telegram that it plans to task two cosmonauts with checking out the radiator during a previously planned spacewalk on Oct. 25.
The EVA originally scheduled for Thursday was supposed to see NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara and European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, each on their first spacewalk, “exit the station’s Quest airlock to collect samples for analysis to see whether microorganisms may exist on the exterior of the orbital complex,” NASA officials wrote of the planned activities on Oct. 3.
Both Roscosmos and NASA officials have repeatedly said the leak — the third in Russian ISS equipment in the past year — had no material impact on space station operations.
But the delayed U.S. spacewalk will push off some minor maintenance on the station, along with a test that was supposed to be in support of future moon exploration.
A second activity, to replace a high-definition camera on the port truss of the station, was supposed to preview what could be possible with a planned lunar orbiting station called Gateway. Mogensen was tasked to ride aboard the robotic Canadarm2 to reach the camera, but with ground controllers directing the arm rather than the usual astronaut inside the ISS.
“Some of the tests of operations that we’ll be doing as part of this EVA will help us inform the ops concepts for that future program,” Elias Myrmo, U.S. spacewalk flight director, said during an Oct. 6 briefing livestreamed from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Like the ISS, Gateway will also host a robotic arm made by the Canadian company MDA, called Canadarm3. The company also provides mission support for Canadarm2 on behalf of the Canadian Space Agency.
The delay also moved a milestone second U.S. segment maintenance spacewalk set for later this month. It was planned on Oct. 20, with O’Hara on her second EVA, and NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli undertaking her first. Should it go forward while the duo are on board ISS, it will be the second all-woman spacewalk, following the historic first such EVA in 2019.