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Space Station Suffers Ammonia Leak, NASA Says Astronauts Are Fine

May 10, 2013 12:34 AM EDT
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The International Space Station has suffered a small leak of ammonia which is used to cool its power system, NASA said Thursday, adding that the leak has posed no immediate danger to the astronauts onboard.

The space station uses chilled liquid ammonia to cool down the power systems on its eight giant solar array panels.

This is not the first time that a minor leak of ammonia has occurred - there was another occurrence in 2007, and NASA has been studying the issue ever since. Mission Control has been in contact with the ISS regarding the issue.

"What you guys have provided in the way of imagery and video has been just like gold to us on the ground," astronaut Doug Wheelock from Mission Control radioed to space station commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut, according to an audio file on NASA's website. "We are fairly confident that it's coming from the vicinity of the TCS." However, flight controllers noted they were still unable to pinpoint the leak's exact location.

NASA said  that while the rate of ammonia leaking from the station's truss structure had increased, the "station continues to operate normally otherwise and the crew is in no danger."

"Ammonia is used to cool the station's power channels that provide electricity to station systems," NASA said, revealing that the leak was coming from the same general area it did in a previous episode last year.

"This ammonia loop is the same one that spacewalkers attempted to troubleshoot a leak on during a spacewalk on Nov. 1, 2012," the statement said.

"It is not yet known whether this increased ammonia flow is from the same leak, which at the time, was not visible."

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