With more than two decades behind it, the International Space Station inevitably suffers from air leak on a regular basis. This is not something serious, however in recent months engineers have detected a higher leakage than usual. Now the challenge is to find where that air leak on the International Space Station is taking place, and it will not be an easy task.
The leak was first noticed in September 2019 and is not the first to be found. In 2018 for example they found one on the Soyuz MS-09 (attached to the ISS) that was later repaired. Now another air leak on the International Space Station appears to be causing air loss again at the station. It is not something especially serious, although enough to take it into account and try to repair it in time.
Three steps to solve the problem: Isolate, Identify, Repair
This is going to be the method of NASA and the other partners of the International Space Station to put an end to the problem. In order to end the air leak on the International Space Station, the first step to take is to isolate each part of the station separately to see in which of them air is being lost. This means monitoring each module separately and closed to each other one by one. Hence, during this last weekend the current crew of the station has been confined in the Zvezda module. With this, the engineers can calmly analyze each one of the rest of the modules, closing all the hatches.
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It is hoped that this will at least better narrow down where the problem is so that later it can be easier to find the air leak. If the module is found that is releasing more air than normal, the astronauts will search for and identify the air leak on the International Space Station specifically. Finally and depending on the problem, the astronauts will try to repair the air leak as they did in 2018.
What caused the air leak at ISS?
NASA indicated that this process does not pose any risk to the crew. Currently made up of three astronauts, it has spent these last days since Friday, August 21, confined to a single module while looking for the problem. They also have access to two more modules should they need them.
Regarding the reason for the air leak on the International Space Station, it could be for dozens of things really. One of the most likely possibilities is that some micrometeorite has caused a fracture. It is in fact what was thought to have happened in 2018, although finally Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) identified the problem as a human error during the construction of the Soyuz, even pointing to possible sabotage.