back to article Space station update: Mystery tiny but growing air leak sparks search for hole

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will attempt to find and patch the source of a tiny air leak first detected last year. In September 2019, NASA, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Russia’s Roscosmos – whose hardware makes up the station – were alerted to a drop in air pressure within the orbiting …

  1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Redefine it

    Engineers and plumbers know that gasses and fluids can only pass through a confined space continuously if it's a leak. If it's supposed to flow through, it will clog up immediately.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Redefine it

      An unsheilded thermal exhaust smaller than a rat !

      What could possibly go wrong ?

      1. Kane Silver badge

        Re: Redefine it

        "An unsheilded thermal exhaust smaller than a rat !"

        Use the Force, Luke!

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Redefine it

      Coffee grounds and cooking fat combined are guaranteed to stop the leak, my wife uses it regularly to seal the leak that I call 'a kitchen drain'.

      I can attest to the strength and persistence of this sealing compound.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: Redefine it

        Herbal essences hair conditioner and luscious locks that are starting to turn silver are also a very effective sealant in our shower...

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Redefine it

        That sounds like an expensive plumber's bill, although I had to have the entire drain line from the kitchen sink to the main drain line in the front yard re-done after ~30-40 years of hot water, grease, and bog only knows what else finally ate through the cast iron part of the line. Had to have the front yard trenched, and part of the front porch saw cut. that was about 3-4 thousand US pesos. I at least got a main line cleanout plug installed in the yard for my money, so there was that.

        (The previous owners were cheapsakes and did half-assed fixes whenever possible instead of paying the appropriate money and doing it right the first time. Had I known that, I would have passed on this house.)

  2. HildyJ Silver badge
    Devil

    Bow to your robot overlords

    I blame CIMON 2, the AI enabled robot sent to the ISS last December. Once it's got the crew members locked away, who knows what its plans are?

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge
      Terminator

      Re: Bow to your robot overlords

      The leak started three months before the robot arrived... which means the dastardly automaton must be even more nefarious than we suspected!

      1. John 110

        Re: Bow to your robot overlords

        Time travelling AI robot! what could go wrong!!

        1. Conundrum1885

          Re: Bow to your robot overlords

          Has anyone checked for anu unusual metallic droplets floating around, or copies of equipment they should only have one of?

          Mine's the coat with the Memetic Polyalloy in the pocket (Arnie Voice)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bow to your robot overlords

      I blame CIMON 2, the AI enabled robot sent to the ISS last December

      Let's just hope that the automated report into the weekend's testing doesn't state that the leak is a result of a faulty AE35 unit, and that it needs to be replaced within 72 hours...

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Call a plumber

    Fix leak $20

    Call out fee $100,000,000

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Call a plumber

      Just find one with a fixed call-out charge.

    2. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Call a plumber

      Tell 'em that Callout fee is fine, but they'll have to sort out there own transportation back from the station...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Call a plumber

        The return trip is the cheap part. It's downhill all the way.

        1. DropBear
          Trollface

          Re: Call a plumber

          Only if you have a heck of a mighty spring in your leg and manage to kick off strongly enough retrograde to land before your suit's air runs out...

    3. newspuppy

      Re: Call a plumber

      Please... be reasonable..... :)

      The call out fee is not going to be 100 Million... as a seat on SpaceX is 55 Million (round trip) and ... with 4 days of travel even at overtime rates the fee for the plumber would be 96 hours * $200.. so let us round that to $20,000 + parts... so let us say .. under 56 Million USD...

      from: https://www.space.com/spacex-boeing-commercial-crew-seat-prices.html

      titled: Here's How Much NASA Is Paying Per Seat on SpaceX's Crew Dragon & Boeing's Starliner

      By Mike Wall November 16, 2019

      <QUOTE>

      NASA will likely pay about $90 million for each astronaut who flies aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule on International Space Station (ISS) missions, the report estimated. The per-seat cost for SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, meanwhile, will be around $55 million, according to the OIG's calculations.

      To put those costs into perspective: NASA currently pays about $86 million for each seat aboard Russia's three-person Soyuz spacecraft, which has been astronauts' only ride to and from the ISS since NASA's space shuttle fleet was grounded in July 2011.

      <END QUOTE>

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Call a plumber

        >The call out fee is not going to be 100 Million... as a seat on SpaceX is 55 Million (round trip)

        Plumber and apprentice + cost of launching a white transit van

      2. mr.K

        Re: Call a plumber

        As if one trip will be enough. First trip to assess the damage, then they have to go out and get the parts and then one more trip for the tools.

        1. Ozumo

          Re: Call a plumber

          Then they tell you that the parts are NLA and you need a whole new space station.

  4. osakajin Bronze badge

    The onboard computer isn't a HAL9000 by any chance?

  5. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

    Are they going to fix it with a blob of chewing gum or cornflakes & milk, both are pretty strong adhesives once dried...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Surely this is exactly what duct tape was intended for.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Do they have a small child on board?

        They are able to secret a fluid that, unlike the blood on Alien, gums up everything

  6. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Monday's Onboard Meeting

    OK guys. Who's been digging an escape tunnel?

  7. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Won't the chewing gum automatically follow the airflow to the hole ?

  8. dodgyoriginals

    Leaky Space Station....

    You could just empty a tin of Radweld into the weightless confines of the cabin and allow it to settle..... Otherwise I have found some people can seal plumbing waste pipes very effectively with congealed porridge..............

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Leaky Space Station....

      when the tire shop employees need to find a leak, they dunk the tire in soapy water and rotate it until they see bubbles... (and I've heard of people spraying soapy water on high pressure air piping to check for leaks)

      Also possible, emit something visible (like smoke) in the center of the compartment and watch which way it moves over time.

      Additionally, the location of a leak may have a different I.R. or U.V. appearance than the surrounding metal, especially when struck with solar wind. Perhaps a (robotic?) camera on the outside could scan for it?

      1. JCitizen Bronze badge
        Trollface

        Re: Leaky Space Station....

        You beat me to it! I was going to suggest spraying soapy water on suspect areas, and then use the Canadarm2 crane with a camera to watch for bubbles coming out of the station.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    The leak was repaired using a strip of good ol’ Kapton tape. ®

    <Sharp intake of breath>

    Well, yeees, if you've got the right sort of leak. This one's a different story guv'nor and I'm gonna have to replace the section. I ain't got the right parts in the Dragon, so I'll 'ave to come back....'ow are you fixed for next week?

  10. TVC

    how to find the leak though.

    Plenty of good solutions for fixing it but none for finding it.

    I suggest soapy water and a sponge and look for air bubbles - you're welcome, no charge.

    1. xeroks

      Re: how to find the leak though.

      came here to say this

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: how to find the leak though.

      You'd have to go outside to look for them.

      1. JCitizen Bronze badge
        Angel

        Re: how to find the leak though.

        Canadarm2 with a camera on it..

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time to send an astronaut outside with a spray bottle of soapy water. Look for the bubbles.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Time to send an astronaut outside with a spray bottle of soapy water. Look for the bubbles."

      Great idea. Remind me, what happens to water in the vacuum of space?

  12. dhartsock

    Man, this short article is riddled with errors. There are U.S. built habitation modules. The previous leak was patched with epoxy. The hole is suspected to have been drilled by someone on the ground, not a clumsy astronaut. I grant the kapton tape was a nice touch.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Well obviously the assumption was that the Soyuz was damaged on the ground by some clumsy oaf without the balls to admit their mistake to management. However it's also true that the head of Roscosmos blamed one of the ISS astronauts for doing it, while in space.

      1. dhartsock

        ... without explaining what a Cosmonaut or Astronaut was doing operating a drill in a Soyuz... other than the insinuation an American Astronaut wanted to come home early. Oh well. Ya keep an space station in orbit long enough, ya going to have some holes to patch. The secret is to keep them small.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "other than the insinuation an American Astronaut wanted to come home early."

          Yeah...I think that was actually an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

  13. ShortStuff

    It's the 'RONA

    That dang 'RONA virus, you know how it's smart enough to not infect protesters. So it's probably smart enough to punch it's way into the space station.

  14. Julz Silver badge

    What

    if the leak is in the Russian living quarters?

  15. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Coat

    Hmm.

    I remember seeing 'fun' clips of 'nauts chasing small water bubbles around a cabin to show kids (and us kids at heart) how lack of gravity works.

    Could they not release a bubble or two into each cabin/section or whatever and see where they 'gravitate' to?

    Or doesn't it work that way?

    Boffins would know ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------^^

  16. Dom 3

    Forced airflow

    As explained here:

    https://blogs.esa.int/astronauts/2012/04/29/no-molecule-shall-stand-still/

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