WASHINGTON — NASA is continuous to research water that leaked right into a spacesuit helmet throughout a spacewalk earlier this 12 months and is holding off on future spacewalks till engineers can resolve the issue.
The leak befell throughout the latest spacewalk from the U.S. phase of the station March 23, involving NASA astronaut Raja Chari and European Area Company astronaut Matthias Maurer. On the finish of the almost seven-hour spacewalk, Maurer reported that water had pooled on his visor, though the skinny layer of water, about 20 to 25 centimeters throughout, didn’t pose a right away risk to him.
NASA had offered few updates in regards to the water leak for the reason that incident. Nevertheless, at a Might 12 assembly of NASA’s Aerospace Security Advisory Panel (ASAP), Susan Helms, a former NASA astronaut who serves on the panel, stated that the company is “no-go” for spacewalks, or EVAs, presently as a result of the continuing investigation.
“As a result of NASA is pondering by way of the chance posture for these fits, that are ageing, the EMU is presently no-go for deliberate EVAs pending an investigation into what they uncover,” she stated. An EMU, or Extravehicular Mobility Unit, is the spacesuit utilized by NASA for ISS spacewalks.
At a Might 17 briefing in regards to the upcoming Boeing CST-100 uncrewed flight take a look at, Dana Weigel, NASA ISS deputy program supervisor, confirmed NASA is holding off on routine spacewalks in the interim. The investigation had discovered no indicators of contamination in water within the go well with that might be linked to the helmet leak.
The go well with itself, she stated, can’t be inspected intimately till it’s returned to Earth. NASA is planning to deliver the go well with again on the subsequent SpaceX cargo Dragon mission, launching to the station in early June.
“From an EVA standpoint, till we perceive higher what the causal elements may need been over the last EVA with our EMU, we’re no-go for nominal EVAs,” she stated. “We received’t do a deliberate EVA till we’ve had an opportunity to actually deal with and rule out main system failure modes.” That will likely be finished by way of a evaluate course of she in comparison with a flight readiness evaluate.
Weigel stated NASA will think about “contingency” spacewalks by balancing the chance of conducting the spacewalk in opposition to the chance posed by the station element that requires a spacewalk to restore or substitute. “We’ll have to have a look at danger versus danger,” she stated, which can embody the standing of the investigation and any measures to resolve the issue.
The Crew-4 mission did ship a number of pads designed to be positioned contained in the helmet to soak up water, she stated. Sixteen extra pads will likely be delivered on the Starliner mission.
The “no-go” evaluation for routine spacewalks has little sensible impact on ISS operations, as no spacewalks had been deliberate till later this 12 months to put in a second set of recent photo voltaic arrays. Weigel didn’t estimate how lengthy the investigation will take.
The incident in March was nowhere close to as severe as one in 2013, when water leaked into the helmet of one other ESA astronaut, Luca Parmitano, shortly after his spacewalk began. He was capable of return to the airlock safely, however solely after about one and a half liters of water leaked into the helmet, making it troublesome for him to breathe.
Water leaks have been an intermittent challenge for the fits for years. “There are nonetheless persevering with points with proof of water within the spacesuit helmets after the conclusion of an EVA and even, in some instances, throughout an EVA,” Helms stated on the ASAP assembly, with no clear root trigger for the issue. Apart from the addition of the pads, she stated engineers are finding out “the final stage of helmet moisture” regular for the go well with.
The water leak, she advised, is proof that the decades-old fits are nearing the top of their helpful lives. Changing the fits has been a long-running space of concern for ASAP and others, together with the company’s inspector basic. NASA has targeted on a brand new spacesuit, known as the xEMU, for Artemis lunar missions, and has proposed measures to increase the life of the present house station fits to 2028.
“The present plan is to increase at the moment’s EMU use to 2028; nonetheless, it’s more and more obvious that the usable life of the present EVA fits is proscribed,” the panel famous in its annual report revealed in January. “New fits are wanted not just for future house exploration, but in addition for its present house actions. NASA can’t preserve the required, ongoing low-Earth orbit operations with out absolutely useful EVA fits.”