The crew aboard the ISS has had a rough few months with a few potentially significant issues happening in the Russian segment of the space station. When Russia connected the new laboratory module to the space station, the thrusters on the segment fired unintendedly, pushing the entire station out of its normal orientation. Russian cosmonauts also recently discovered cracks in one of their modules.
Thursday, a potentially catastrophic issue occurred aboard the ISS when cosmonauts woke to smoke alarms and a burning smell. NASA and Roscosmos have confirmed the alarms activated at 1:55 AM GMT (9:55 PM EDT Wednesday). Smoke alarms aboard the station were triggered in the Zvezda service module in the Russian segment of the ISS.
The alarm and the burning smell occurred during automatic battery charging, according to the Russian space agency. Astronaut Thomas Pesquet reported that the smell of burning plastic or electronic equipment made its way into the US segment of the station. Russian crewmembers awoke and flipped on an air filter to remove smoke from the air, and after the air was clean, the cosmonauts went back to sleep.
The alarms were triggered ahead of a planned spacewalk which NASA said will go ahead as planned. Roscosmos says all systems aboard the space station are currently operating normally. The spacewalk is being conducted by cosmonauts working on completing the integration of the new Nauka module that docked with the ISS in July. Russia’s new laboratory module was years behind schedule.
Russia has threatened to pull out of the ISS in 2025, citing the condition of the space station. Issues aboard the station have been limited to Russian-supplied modules. Russia has suggested if it leaves the ISS partnership, it might build a new space station with China.