Space station's mystery leak may be resolved
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: January 11, 2004
Space station commander Michael Foale today found a braided flexible hose with an apparent leak in it that may explain the slight loss of air pressure station engineers have been struggling to resolve over the past week.
The hose is part of a system that evacuates air between two of the six panes making up an optically-clear window in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Foale checked the hose with an ultrasound sensor today and even heard a clearly audible hissing sound. The hose was removed from two quick-disconnect fittings and so far, the station's air pressure has remained stable.
"It looks lke we found our culprit," astronaut Douglas Wheelock radioed Foale and station flight engineer Alexander "Sasha" Kaleri from mission control in Houston. "We, of course, are going to press on with some ... confirming measurements to make sure we found what we hope we found."
"Sasha and I are wondering why we didn't come to this conclusion a day or two earlier," Foale replied. "But there it is."
The leak in question was first detected in late December. Foale and Kaleri were in the process of checking the pressure integrity of the station's airlock, docking compartment and other systems in a bid to track down whatever might be leaking when Foale decided to run some additional checks in the lab module.
He had checked the hose in question earlier, but he did not detect any leakage, perhaps because of nearby equipment that was running at the time.
"We verified the Vozdukh (carbon dioxide remover) works well, and I think we've just verified that the airlock and the docking compartment and also the Soyuz are leak tight," Foale radioed. "That's one of the reasons why I came back to the lab, by the way, guys.
"As I was watching the pressure and temperatures balancing out on the airlock, I realized all that was pretty leak tight. So I thought, 'you know, we need to go back to the places we've looked at already and check one more time.' And that's what kind of led me down that path."
"We concur with all your thoughts," Wheelock replied. "We've been watching the lab and the docking compartment and the Soyuz stack and it looks like the pressures are holding nicely there."
Additional details will be posted as they become available.
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