NASA astronauts aboard the ISS are currently working hard to find and repair a small, persistent air leak aboard the space station. While an air leak in a space station orbiting the Earth seems like a significant risk, NASA has stated that the leak is within segment specifications and presents no immediate danger to the crew or the space station. Some air leakage from the station is normal, and NASA says that this particular leak has been on its radar for a while.
The first indications of the leak were seen in September 2019. An increase in the leak rate has triggered increased efforts to find the source so it can be repaired. The crew currently aboard the ISS includes NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin. The trio began searching for the leak on Friday and will spend through Monday bunking in the Russian Zvezda service module.
NASA says that by staying in the segment of the station with the leak, the chances of the astronauts finding the source is improved. Staying in the segment also allows the crew to close station hatches so the air pressure can be monitored in each section.
NASA is clear that the test presents no safety challenges for the crew. However, shutting down the hatches can help mission controllers figure out where the leak is coming from. Initial results from the testing are expected next week.
Once the source of the leak is tracked down, the crew will determine if it can be repaired. It’s unclear exactly what repair methods will be employed, but NASA certainly has a plan.