Main Oxygen Generator Fails on International Space Station

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planet_z

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I just happened to glance on Fox News and they had this flashed on the screen. I havn't seen it reported anywhere else yet. Anyone have any info on this?
 
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omegamogo

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I just looked on CNN.com and searched on Google, no site seem to have any thing about it.
 
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Leovinus

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Stop watching Fox News. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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planet_z

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Yeah, they always seem to make everything seem like breaking news with their Fox News Alerts. I just missed the tail end of it and only caught the headline. Good to know that they are not in imminent danger.
 
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omegamogo

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They <i>do</i> have more then one oxygen Generator back up, right?
 
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najab

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><i>They do have more then one oxygen Generator back up, right?</i><p>From the article linked to above:<blockquote>The three Elektron units on board the space station are the last of their kind. The company that manufactured them has gone out of business, and the engineer who almost single-handedly made the final adjustments of flight units died several years ago. Reportedly he retained some "trade secret" about the final adjustments of the devices -- and it died with him.</blockquote><img src="/images/icons/shocked.gif" />!!!</p>
 
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nacnud

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It is hard to decipher the exact state of each of the three Elektron systems on the station from the article<br />but this is my best guess:<br /><font color="yellow"><br />One of these units is "hard broken," NASA sources say, <br /><br />Another, while broken, was thought to be reparable using a jury-rigged bypass pump system sent up on a supply drone earlier this year. The crew installed that system on Thursday, however the system hasn't been tested yet.<br /><br />The third unit began experiencing unwanted bubbling and consequent automatic shutdowns about two months ago. The shutdowns have been growing more and more frequent. For the two previous units, the same pattern of more and more frequent shutdowns was followed by a hard failure. The unit’s design lifetime was originally one year. “The problem this time is apparently not with bubbles in the ‘Fluid Unit’,” the NASA report stated, “but with the unit's oxygen & hydrogen gas analyzer, which is a failure mode not seen before.” This followed the occurrence a week earlier of another never-before-seen failure of a valve switch.<br /></font><br />So it seem to me that one unit might be jury rigged into operation quickly however of the other two one is bust while the other has experienced a failure not seem before and it might take a while to understand and possibly fix, not an easy thing to do when the company that manufactured them has gone out of business, and the engineer who almost single-handedly made the final adjustments of flight units is dead.<br />
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>The three Elektron units on board the space station are the last of their kind. The company that manufactured them has gone out of business, and the engineer who almost single-handedly made the final adjustments of flight units died several years ago. Reportedly he retained some "trade secret" about the final adjustments of the devices -- and it died with him.<p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />EEEK!<br /><br />Okay, now, this is why careful creation, maintenance, and control of documentation is so vital. I dread to think what other critical things somebody might've been allowed to keep as a personal secret in order to maintain job security.... <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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najab

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I thought you might appreciate how scary that quotation is. I wonder if all the Russian ISS software development team members are healthy.....
 
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nacnud

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I agree<br /><br />The thing is what is the designed lifetime of these things? The construction of the ISS was supposed to be nearing 'core complete' by now and I'm sure that there was supposed to be other systems taking over from these in the longer term. I just hope that the designed life of the station is long enough so that it can actually be finished and used before its time to start renewing any core modules... <br /><br />I hope that they hurry up with the Assured Access to Station program.
 
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ew72

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The good news is that the Mobile Home Modules left in buildings at KSC awaiting launch are filled with fresh oxygen, and the astronauts who would otherwise be in orbit are safely breathing in, and out, and in, and out - no reason to panic over any of this. <br /><br />Patience, young grasshoppers. This is not a tragic event, but it is an opportunity to count our blessings that more people and parts are not in space. Okay, so maybe the deck of launches would have to be shuffled to get a new oxygen processor up there.<br /><br />Space is, after all, an unnatural environment for humans. There is no ionosphere to block UV rays, so you have to take your sunshade with you. There is no air beyond the trailer park assembled up there like Tinker Toys, so you have to have that working.<br /><br />But when all else fails, we can come home, making sure that the station has sufficient altitude, and take a breather. After a good rest, we'll be back at it, stronger than ever.
 
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davp99

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More Info From the Ny Times,<br /><br />Oxygen Generator on Space Station Fails<br />By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS<br /> <br />Published: September 10, 2004<br /><br /><br />CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Sept. 9 - The main oxygen generator for the International Space Station has failed, and the two astronauts on board will tap into an attached cargo ship's air supply this weekend, NASA said Thursday.<br />The space agency said the astronauts had several backup sources of oxygen and were in no immediate danger.<br /> <br /> <br />The generator, a Russian unit that keeps breaking down, stopped working this week. Air bubbles have usually been responsible for the breakdowns, but this time there appeared to be was a blockage in a line.<br />The station's commander, Col. Gennadi I. Padalka of the Russian Air Force, said he was confident he could clear the blockage and get the machine running again, a NASA spokesman, Rob Navias, said. <br />In the meantime, Colonel Padalka took spare parts and installed them in a spare oxygen generator, which could serve as a replacement if necessary. On Saturday, he and the other crew member, Lt. Col. Edward Mike Fincke of the United States Air Force, will replenish their cabin with oxygen stored aboard the docked cargo carrier, Mr. Navias said.<br />Besides the oxygen from the cargo ship, the space station is stocked with more than a month's worth of oxygen-generating canisters. The next cargo ship, to be launched by Russia by year's end, will deliver additional oxygen.<br />The space station has been short of supplies since NASA's shuttle fleet was grounded after the Columbia disaster 19 months ago.<br />The two astronauts' six-month mission is nearing an end. They will be replaced by another Russian and another American in mid-October.<br /><br /><br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <font size="4">Dave..</font> </div>
 
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halman

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nacnud, crazyeddie,<br /><br />We should bear in mind that support for the International Space Station was supposed to include shuttle flights every few months. If we had a healthy space program, and also the Russians, there would be flights to the ISS several times a month. This is supposed to be the closest outpost in space to Earth, yet our current abilities make it seem as remote as Antarctica from New York.<br /><br />Did any of you notice the mention of American-made oxygen generators? Said generators were supposed to be available in SIX YEARS! The program developing them is going to be accelerated, but it will only shave two years off of expected delivery time. This strikes me as rather odd, because it was known when the ISS was planned that oxygen wauld have to be supplied somehow, and a system to crack wastewater into hydrogen and oxygen cannot be that complicated if the Russians figured out how to do nearly 20 years ago!<br /><br />I have a distinct impression that the delay in providing American built generators is primarily due to a lack of funding, not scientific hurdles which must be overcome. A lot of people have said that they think that the ISS is a waste. It may have been done a lot better, I will grant, but it still represents a major step in making human space exploration a sustainable enterprise. We have got to get away from trying to send our explorers directly to the Moon or to Mars, because it is prohibitively expensive in terms of energy. A transfer station where crews can switch from a reusable launch vehicle to a specialized space craft is fundamental to prolonged space exploration.<br /><br />With only two people on board, everything that happens on the ISS is a crisis. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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aaron38

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Are we learning from all this? Are we learning how to make our space equipment more rugged/reliable?<br /><br />I mean we want to send astronauts to Mars right? On a three year mission with no option for resuply, and oxygen generators designed to last a year... Are we just planning on sending a crate of oxygen generators? <br /><br />The enigneering knowledge is dying, are there any young engineers learning this? This doesn't feel like progress. It feels like a long slow slide into decay.
 
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rvastro

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Some maybe learning but it depends on the priorities of the profs. I had one that was dead set against humans going into space--parapharsing--Its just a waste of money. Myself and another student were/are pro space (his wife was hired to help install tiles on one of the orbiters). Each of us received a final grade of "F" in the course after that discussion.
 
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mrmorris

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<font color="yellow">"The enigneering knowledge is dying, are there any young engineers learning this?"</font><br /><br />Of course there are. Plenty of engineers are learning the technology, with names like: Nguyen Minh, Dinh Ko, and Huong Dzung. Of course there is also Sunil Bhave, Shanmuhanathan Khunteta, and Vishwajit Mehta.<br /><br />Of course if you're looking for engineers in the <b>U.S.</b> to be learning this... there might be a bit of a problem.
 
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backspace

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"With only two people on board, everything that happens on the ISS is a crisis. "<br /><br />Halman, that has to be the most astute observation I've read on uplink in some time.<br /><br />Does anyone else think that since it is obvious Kerry plans to kill MTM that we may re-negotiate terms for the station and stay there awhile longer?
 
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earth_bound_misfit

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What is MTM?<br /><br />"With only two people on board, everything that happens on the ISS is a crisis. "<br /><br />I would've thought the opposite was true, with the O2 malfunctions, more than two ppl on board with O2 levels dropping, that would make more of a crisis. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p> </p><p>----------------------------------------------------------------- </p><p>Wanna see this site looking like the old SDC uplink?</p><p>Go here to see how: <strong>SDC Eye saver </strong>  </p> </div>
 
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backspace

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Moon To Mars.<br /><br />Still ,I realize that my last post insinuates that Kerry will win the election.<br /><br />Well, in the case of the O2 failures, yes, your point is well taken.<br /><br />In terms of disasters, there's usually a rule that three man teams deal with events. One to be saved, one to save him, and one to assure the second man doesn't meet the same fate as the first.<br /><br />Nevertheless, We need the shuttle, and pronto. The problems on ISS are making that clear. Let's drop the nonsense and get flying. The rest of the reports be damned... we fixed the foam, let's go to orbit. <br />To quote Commander Kirbuk:<br />"What has happened to American bravery?"<br />(5 points)
 
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erioladastra

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"I wonder if all the Russian ISS software development team members are healthy..... "<br /><br />This is not funny. This has been a serious problem we have been facing from the beginning. Partly from the Soviet style of doing things, little is written down in Russia. Any data we get we have to pull it out like teeth and then we write it down (and frequently it is wrong because data is also very compartmentalized over there so even if you get something it might not be complete, correct or up to date). Add to that that when they make a software change they just do it - no CM control really. Oh, and then let us know long time after.
 
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najab

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Oh, I know it's not funny. Broken hardware is a <b>lot</b> easier to fix than buggy software.
 
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radarredux

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> <i><font color="yellow">Nevertheless, We need the shuttle, and pronto. The problems on ISS are making that clear.</font>/i><br /><br />Which begs the question: What happens after ~2010 when the shuttle is retired? Do we return to the present situation where stuff breaks down and we have a difficult time providing enough spare parts and supplies (especially for a station twice the size (and twice and many things to break?) and a crew that is 3 times the current size), or will the supply rockets (e.g., Europe and Japan ATVs) be able adequately substitute for the shuttle?</i>
 
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no_way

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>Are we learning how to make our space equipment more rugged/reliable? <br />I mean we want to send astronauts to Mars right?<p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br />Theres your reason why not rush to mars, but build your spacefaring civilization alot closer to home, like within 3-day resupply mission reach.
 
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halman

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aaron38,<br /><br />A mission to Mars, or ANY long duration mission, is going to require a closed-loop life support system. There is one which works, in operation right now, on a planet near you. This is the single largest reason why rushing off to Mars any time soon is probably not a good idea. We have to come up with a working closed-loop life support system if we do not want to use every bit of available cargo space just to carry consumables.<br /><br />If you are an intelligent young person, becoming an engineer means planning on moving off-shore if you want to work in your field. If the current trend in the United States is not reversed, we will have to hire engineers from some other country to build our buildings, airplanes, and spacecraft. The biggest engineering project I have heard about recently was the Big Dig in Boston, and from what I have heard, they had to re-engineer a lot of the project at least once, and sometimes more frequently, because of flaws in the designs. I don't know any specific facts, but I have gotten the impression that the project has taken nearly twice as long as originally planned, at a cost which is several times the original estimate. <br /><br />"A long, slow slide into decay," is the best description of what I see going on in this country I have heard in a while. Our space program merely reflects our national charactor.<br /><br />rvastro,<br /><br />If I thought that an instructor had flunked me because of my personal views, I would have him up before the Dean Of Students or the Principal right now to justify himself. Don't let someone railroad you just because they have authority. An 'F' indicates that the student has no grasp of the subject, and has expended no effort to learn it. I strongly suspect that you could prove otherwise.<br /><br /><br />mrmorris,<br /><br />For the last ten or fifteen years, I have been noticing that the names associated with major breakthroughs at American institutions are usually not Anglo-Saxon name <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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