NASA has confirmed that the international space station is currently in need of maintenance on the cooling system used on one the solar power generating arrays. At about 10:30 AM yesterday, members of ISS Expedition 35 crew reported to NASA that small white flakes were floating away from an area of the ISS’ P6 truss structure.
To gather additional information for crew members on the station and NASA controllers on the ground, ISS crewmembers used hand-held cameras while Mission Control used external television cameras to record images to gather additional data. Those images were used to narrow down the location of the leak.
Information from crewmembers aboard the space station and the photographs taken indicate that the ammonia leak in the section of the cooling system is increasing in capacity. The ISS uses ammonia to cool the power channels that provide electricity to systems aboard the space station. NASA says that the ISS crewmembers are in no danger at this time.
SpaceFlight Now reports that this coolant system requires at least 40 pounds of ammonia for normal operation. NASA believes that at the current leak rate, the coolant loop in question would drop below that level and shut down within 48 hours if a repair isn’t made. If that coolant loop shuts down, crewmembers would have to reconfigure the coolant loops to use a different loop to cool some of the computer systems the leaking 2B loop currently cools.