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The crew of the space station safe after the failure of the oxygen supply system

The International Space Station

The International Space Station
Picture: NASA

Crew members aboard the International Space Station are dealing with a failed oxygen supply generator located in a Russian module. Fortunately, astronauts and cosmonauts are not in danger, but this is now the second recent bug involving a Russian component, which may be a cause for concern.

The non-functioning oxygen supply system is located in the Russian Zvezda module and it went out late yesterday, reports AFP. It sounds scary, but another oxygen supply system located on the US side works normally and gives the ISS crew breathable air. In addition, extra oxygen supplies are stored on the ISS as an extra precaution.

The system failed the same day as NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov arrived at the orbiting outpost, along with crew members Chris Cassidy, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. It is not clear if the oxygen outbreak had anything to do with their arrival, although it seems unlikely.

It is also not clear whether the Russian oxygen generation system fault has anything to do with one unresolved air leakage. Last word is that Roscosmos has finally tracked down the source of the leak, which is somewhere in the Zvezda module, and mission technicians are currently preparing instructions for repairs, as reported by AFP. The air leak has been active since last year and is not considered a risk to the crew.

As for the failed oxygen generation system, a spokesman for Roscosmos told AFP that “nothing” is currently threatening the crew and repairs to the system are to take place later today.

The state-owned Russian news agency RIA Novosti is reporting that the failed system is an Electron-VM OGS. RIA Novosti quoted veteran Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who said: “All modules in the Russian segment are exhausted” and notes that they are dependent on expired equipment in need of replacement.

The US side is equipped with an oxygen generation system capable of supporting the current crew of six. It is part of an integrated network called the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), which also includes water recycling and air resuscitation. The system “produces oxygen for breathing air and replaces oxygen lost as a result of experimental use, compressed aeration from air locks, modular leakage and aeration of carbon dioxide,” according to a NASA fact sheet. Oxygen is generated by electrolysis to break down oxygen from hydrogen. NASA’s ECLSS has been operating on the ISS since 2008.

This is a story that is evolving and we will update this post as we learn more.

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