back to article ISS? More like HISS, am I right? Space station air leakage narrowed down to Russia's Zvezda module

The location of the air leak from the International Space Station (ISS) has been identified. According to Russia's Roscosmos, it is in the Zvezda Service Module transfer chamber. While not an imminent threat to the crew's safety, the usual seepage of air has grown in recent months, necessitating a hunt for the culprit. The …

  1. RM Myers

    Canceled Flights

    Come on people, let's get these damn things off the ground. It's not rocket science.

    Oh wait, um, ..ah.., never mind.

  2. Red Ted

    T minus 7s?

    That sounds a bit close to the point of no return when you have have an awful lot of thrust wanting to go somewhere!

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: T minus 7s?

      I guess a lot of the pre-flight checks are done just before firing, to assure that they are as current as possible.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: T minus 7s?

        Lots of important stuff starts happening right before liftoff. Pumps running, valves opening, motor igniting, etc. If something's going to go wrong with a fuel pump, it will probably happen then, versus when at rest.

        1. eldel

          Re: T minus 7s?

          Am I the only one that's impressed that they can shut down something that energetic and dynamic safely only 7 seconds (and they can probably get closer) before it all goes very hot?

          1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

            Re: T minus 7s?

            One of the NROL-44 aborts happened at T0. The two side boosters started fine but the middle one didn't because it did not get a burst of high pressure helium needed to spin up the turbo pumps. The side boosters had to shut down really fast because the engines are designed for a single use and when they were still in production cost something like $10M to $20M each. I expect the cost of two more would start with "How much can you afford?"

            1. Anonymous Coward

              Re: T minus 7s?

              The August 29 attempt actually stopped at T minus 3s but the announcers continued to countdown to "liftoff" and speculated it was a hotfire abort. ULA later clarified it was an automated abort, the flames were external, and neither the boosters or main engine ignited.

              Still, this doesn't do anything to make ULA's hardware look like it's improving.

              1. DoctorNine

                Re: T minus 7s?

                Tried to watch NROL-44 launch no less than three different times. Bugger the whole thing now, as far as I'm concerned. I'm willing to give a musician some space for their art, but this is ridiculous.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if they could just release a few styrofoam balls and let them find their way to the hole. Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

      I suppose the problem is all the other airflows - due to convection, fans, crew movement, or whatever - are all stronger than the tiny leak...

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

        Set up a few cameras to fully cover the space (if it isn't already fully covered) then evacuate the people (and animals, if any) from that module, seal the door, disable the ventilation and shut down everything else with a fan like computers. After a while when the air has become completely still other than the leak a delayed release container opens up and releases colored smoke. Watch on video and see where the smoke goes.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

          you have to ask how they found the leak in the Soyuz a while back.

          That one was apparently caused by an inaccurate drill hole, followed by a sloppy patch job (if I remember correctly). once found, it was patched in space and apparently had no additional leaking.

          I wonder if coating the entire outside of the module with the equivalent of soapy water. would reveal bubbles, like when a mechanic checks for a leak in a car tire. (yeah US'ian spelling)

          Other possibilities, turn off the fans, seal the room, use a small smoke source at various points, and then watch where it leads. An extinguished match would probably be enough. What, nobody's got a light on the ISS? [such simple things on earth]

          1. Muscleguy

            Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

            1. Phosphorous fragments floating about. V bad.

            2. Graphite fragments, pretty bad.

            3. Dropping the lit match: Potentially catastrophic.

            Smoke can be made without a naked flame. We had a fog machine for productions at school, worked with kerosene. Risk of it going off with a fart noise. As Lysander I pretended I couldn’t find Demetrius to fight him both led astray by our excellent female Puck with the stuff just above knee high swirling as we moved.. Great fun.

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?


            2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

              Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

              Flames in space are hemi-spherical and burn rather differently to flames on earth as there is no gravitational gradient to cause 'rising' hot air:


              If the compartment is at all cluttered with equipment, you would have to watch for smoke outside, as the hole could be between a console and the external skin of the module.

              1. Tom 7 Silver badge

                Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

                Flames are spherical in space - hemispherical if adjacent to a plane. Dependent on the fuel source of course.

        2. Annihilator

          Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

          I think you underestimate how turbulent air is. Even if you sealed everything off, the air would never settle.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?


        1. Trollslayer

          Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

          That requires gravity.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Or would the airflow be too weak or too strong?

            I was aware of that - the poster didnt seem to be.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      I guess the leakage is imperceptible, way smaller than a tire leak, else they would be rushing to ferry replacement air reserves to the IIS by now. This, and the definitely not flat and featureless inner hull surface of the module might make it quite difficult to spot a welding line which has gotten porous.

      Obviously smoke isn't an option, they can't just open the windows and ventilate when it's over. They would have to keep breathing that smoke until all the smoke particles have settled in the astronauts' lungs and on the sensible instruments up there.

      IMHO they have better chances finding it from the outside, except of course space walks are limited in time and it would take months. They'd need some automated method revealing some physical effect which happens when air seeps out into space.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Way too weak. Fill a basin of water, put a pin prick in the side of it. Give it a bit of a swoosh around, drop a plastic ball into it. It almost certainly won't drift to the side with the leak in it.

  4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Nobody wants Abortober to become a thing.

    Followed by No-fly-vember no doubt?

    1. ClockworkOwl
      Thumb Down

      As long as it's not followed further by "Descentber", I'll be happy to wait...

      1. BackToTheFuture

        Followed by Janoferry and Febtoohairy?

    2. mr.K


      As long as 2020 will come to an end, I don't care.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: 2020

        I'm not looking forward to the season finale...

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    SBD - Silent But [Not Yet] Deadly

    "While not an imminent threat to the crew's safety, the usual seepage of air has grown in recent months, necessitating a hunt for the culprit."

    That statement could be read with an alternative context/subject

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: SBD - Silent But [Not Yet] Deadly

      Can I just point out that the one who smelt it, dealt it.

  6. xehpuk

    ISS: There is one imposter Among Us.

  7. JJKing

    What's the big deal?

    If the astronauts get to have a leak several times a day, why can't the station do the same?

    Shall I get my coat?

  8. Alister

    SpaceX also stood down from its latest Starlink launch attempt yesterday after "an out-of-family ground sensor reading"

    Is that a more polite way of saying "bastard broken"?

  9. Conundrum1885

    Premature ejection

    I hate it when that happens.

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Air Sucking Space Leeches!

    Or a Space Vampire (clue: two bite marks on the skin of the ISS)

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Air Sucking Space Leeches!

      Doctor Who - State of Decay. A Tom Baker episode I never saw, but for some reason had the audiobook on tape as a kid. The Doctor realises that the vampire's castle is in fact a spaceship - hence the pointy tower - and launches it so that it will come back and pierce the giant vampire creature's heart. He basically turns it into a Space Stake.

      Although surely that shouldn't work, as it's not made of wood? But I guess if you start looking for plot holes, you'll never finish.

      We need a happy descent into nostalgia icon. Or just an old git one...

  11. cray74

    Differing definitions of "fail"

    It has been a bad few weeks for US-based rocket fanciers as SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Northrop Grumman took turns at failing to get their respective rockets off the ground.

    Generally, a rocket failure is not takeoff so much as a rapid unscheduled disassembly, which known to affect even senior aerospace companies. Failure to reach orbit is another common failure in the launch industry.

    Launch scrubs and delayed takeoffs, on the other hand, are sensible precautions. Launch services aren't airlines trying to appease hundreds of angry, restive passengers with timely takeoffs. Instead, they have customers expecting that their billion-dollar hardware gets delivered correctly, intact, and operational.

  12. cortland

    Not to worry?

    "At its current rate, the leak poses no immediate danger to the crew, according to NASA."

    Once was enough,NASA. You accepted "random" one time too many, REMEMBER?

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