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Cooling pump malfunction on NASA's space station may require space walk

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NASA reported on December 11, 2013 that a coolant pump has shut down on the International Space Station, requiring the shutdown of some noncritical systems while astronauts and Mission Control in Houston work to fix the problem.

“Earlier Wednesday, the pump module on one of the space station’s two external cooling loops automatically shut down when it reached pre-set temperature limits. These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool. The flight control teams worked to get the cooling loop back up and running, and they suspect a flow control valve actually inside the pump module itself might not be functioning correctly.

“At no time was the crew or the station itself in any danger, but the ground teams did work to move certain electrical systems over to the second loop. Some non-critical systems have been powered down inside the Harmony node, the Kibo laboratory and the Columbus laboratory while the teams work to figure out what caused the valve to not function correctly and how to fix it. The crew is safe and preparing to begin a normal sleep shift while experts on the ground collect more data and consider what troubleshooting activities may be necessary.”

Fox News quotes a NASA spokesperson as indicating that the problem could either be related to software, in which case it would require some sort of update or patch, or hardware. If it is the latter, a spacewalk might be required to fix the errant valve.

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