Astronauts to camp out on Russian side of space station while NASA tracks year-old leak

Hatches will close to narrow down leak site, NASA says

NASA Astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy works in the Combustion Integrated Rack, connecting water umbilicals and checking for leaks in the research device that enables safe fuel, flame and soot studies in microgravity. (Image: NASA) (WKMG 2020)

NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy will hang out with his Russian counterparts on their end of the International Space Station this weekend to allow NASA to run tests on a small leak first detected almost one year ago.

The U.S. space agency announced the space station shuffle Thursday in a news release.

The small leak was first detected in September 2019 and NASA and its international partners have been collecting data on the cabin pressure. According to NASA, the rate at which air is leaking from the cabin has “slightly increased.” NASA is working to come up with a plan to isolate, identify and possibly repair the source.

To allow Mission Control to monitor the air pressure in each module of the space station, all hatches will be closed and the one astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts will stay in the Zvezda segment from Friday night into Monday morning.

Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin are not in any danger, NASA assured, and will have plenty of room in the Russian module. The space station is now the length of an American football field, but when astronauts first began living on the ISS all year round Zvezda was the first living quarters for the crew.

The International Space Station (Image credit: NASA) (WKMG 2020)

With this weekend’s test, NASA officials hope to determine which module is experiencing a higher-than-normal leak rate and have preliminary results by the end of next week.

The testing happens as there are only three onboard the orbiting laboratory. In October, SpaceX will send up three NASA astronauts and a Japanese astronaut in the first operational mission for the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX successfully completed its first Dragon test flight with astronauts earlier this month.

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