In a six and half hour Extra-Vehicular Activity or EVA, astronauts Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide successfully took the first step in fixing the ammonia leak by re-routing the coolant system to an older radiator to know whether the problem lies on the radiator that the ISS is currently using.
After the successful re-routing of the coolant system, US astronaut Mike Fincke commended Hoshide and Williams. He said: “You guys totally rock, and the flight control team really appreciates your work. Good job guys.”
Now that the first step in fixing the leak has been made, NASA will now monitor the condition closely, but it will take several weeks to determine whether the steps made by the two astronauts will work out or not.
Before the spacewalk was conducted, Space Station manager Mike Suffredini of NASA said: “We don’t know exactly where the leak is. It’s possible the leak is in the PVR itself, the photo-voltaic radiator itself. It could be in the pump system, or it could be in any one of the coolant lines.”
If the primary steps conducted on Thursday will not fix the problem, NASA said that they will schedule another spacewalk in the future to totally change the pump gears of the coolant system. However, they clarified that there is no urgent need for that move since the spare radiator wherein the coolant system was rerouted is enough to keep the system working until October next year.
NASA has been monitoring the leak since 2007 and has already conducted safety measures before, but they failed to determine the real cause. Last year, NASA sent astronauts via the space shuttle Endeavour to put eight pounds of ammonia in the coolant system to keep it working.
Williams was the same astronaut deployed by NASA in 2007 to retract the radiator. Before the spacewalk, she said: “It’s sort of interesting. We retracted this exact radiator that we’re going to deploy. “And so we’ve dealt with ammonia lines, and we did go through all the procedures that are tested out for ammonia problems.”