NASA has announced it will investigate a small air leak onboard the International Space Station (ISS) this weekend. Thankfully, none of the three current crew members aboard the space station are in immediate danger.
Though a small amount of air leaking out of the ISS is to be expected, the rate of that leak "has slightly increased," according to a statement released by NASA, "so the teams are working a plan to isolate, identify, and potentially repair the source."
Crewmembers of the station's current Expedition 63 will spend the weekend in the ISS's orbiting laboratory Russian segment, inside the Zvezda service module, NASA officials said in its update yesterday.
This means that all three astronauts aboard the ISS will be able to float around the main Zvezda module, the Poisk mini-research module, and their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft.
After a very busy period aboard the ISS, the highlight of which was SpaceX's first crewed mission, Demo-2, docking with the ISS, NASA is taking advantage of a relatively quiet period to investigate the leak. They expect to have some answers by next week, the NASA update explains.
"Now that we have a relatively quiet period in the operations — spacewalks, vehicle traffic, additional crew members can all result in fluctuations — the crew will be shutting the hatches to every single module so the ground can monitor each module’s pressure to further isolate the source," NASA spokesperson, Dan Huot, told Space.com.
"It’s the most effective means we have of finding the leak, as it is so small," he added. "We don’t know definitively if the leak is in the U.S. or Russian segment, and won’t until we’re able to review the data from this weekend’s tests."
While the investigation takes place, the astronauts will still be able to work as normal without wearing bodysuits inside the station. The ISS is, in fact, always leaking a little air over time, meaning it requires routine depressurization from nitrogen and oxygen tanks that are sent up during cargo missions. While the current leak is higher than normal, NASA has emphasized that it doesn't pose an immediate risk to the crewmembers onboard.