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View Full Version : NASA's "Smoking Spacesuits" Cancels More Spacewalks For Now



schlaugh
2007-Nov-14, 06:00 PM
NASA is worried about a "smoky" smell coming from inside a spacesuit during a ground test last week, canceling all further spacewalks until a cause can be found.


The move could be bad news for the crew on the station scrambling to get vital work done inside and outside the station to keep the next shuttle launch on schedule for December 6. Atlantis is already on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, getting ready for the liftoff date. NASA mission managers gave the shuttle the green light today.

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/2007/11/nasas-smoking-s.html

Tucson_Tim
2007-Nov-14, 06:06 PM
You just need to request a non-smoking spacesuit. :)

Dave J
2007-Nov-14, 06:41 PM
Is this the US or Russian suit? Doesn't the ISS crew exclusively use the Russian suit?

01101001
2007-Nov-14, 06:49 PM
Is this the US or Russian suit? Doesn't the ISS crew exclusively use the Russian suit?

I think the problem was reported in a Russian suit, or whatever it is that ISS expedition people wear, in ground training.

NASA ISS Daily Reports :: ISS On-Orbit Status 11/12/07 (http://www.hq.nasa.gov/osf/iss_reports/reports2007/11-12-2007.htm)


EMU Spacesuit Troubleshooting: During a SSATA (Space Station Airlock Test Article) chamber run on the ground this past Friday, a crew member reported the smell of smoke inside the EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit). The run was terminated, and the crew member extracted without incident. A mishap investigation board was formed and has recommended that all life support system operations (power, O2 ops, etc.) for the on-orbit EMUs be terminated until a root cause can be determined. Thus, the on-orbit EMUs are No Go. All other ops, such as suit resizing, can be performed.

MSNBC, James Oberg: Spacesuit smoke alarm threatens NASA plans (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21771439/)


Other NASA sources have reported privately that despite this testing over the Veterans Day weekend, no trace of any combustion or contamination could be found. This is both good news and bad news: good, because there appeared to be no potentially fatal fire; bad, because the incident still remains unexplained and the spacesuit design remains under suspicion.
[...]
The worst-case scenario is much less likely but much more serious: This scenario would involve a previously unrecognized hardware problem with one or more of the station's suits that will need component replacement. That could take months to fix, delaying all future shuttle flights, unless a way is found to use the set of Russian spacesuits also on board the station.

So it seems there are different not-usually-used Russian suits. It sure sounds like the potential problem is in the suit that is used for ISS spacewalks, whoever makes it.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-14, 06:52 PM
So someone snuck a cig in the spacesuit storeroom, and now the ISS crew can't spacewalk.

Doodler
2007-Nov-14, 07:16 PM
Dust in the suits ventilation system. Like turning on a heater that's been off all summer.

KaiYeves
2007-Nov-14, 08:20 PM
So someone snuck a cig in the spacesuit storeroom, and now the ISS crew can't spacewalk.
See, smoking is bad! Something I learned in elementary school is still true!

Noclevername
2007-Nov-14, 09:00 PM
The good news is, the ISS crew can fill their suits with pork ribs and have a fiiiiine barbeque.

novaderrik
2007-Nov-15, 12:17 AM
so, let me get this straight..
a suit being tested on the ground had a minor malfunction that led to a slight smoke smell, but they can't find anything actually wrong with it, so they had to form a panel to investigate it and tell the people up in space that they can't use their suits until the panel investigates and comes to a conclusion as to what happened?
how many $$$ is all of this going to cost us?
and some of you complain about a few parties that NASA throws for their employees and contractors..

Noclevername
2007-Nov-15, 12:33 AM
so, let me get this straight..
a suit being tested on the ground had a minor malfunction that led to a slight smoke smell, but they can't find anything actually wrong with it, so they had to form a panel to investigate it and tell the people up in space that they can't use their suits until the panel investigates and comes to a conclusion as to what happened?
how many $$$ is all of this going to cost us?
and some of you complain about a few parties that NASA throws for their employees and contractors..

That's right, the actual suits in space... that they've been using right along with no problems... are being put off limits because someone on the ground thought they smelled something in one of the same or similar model.

JeDi
2007-Nov-15, 12:47 AM
I think the problem was reported in a Russian suit,
No, from what I have read it is an American suit. It was just a Russian fellow who did the ground test.

Thus, the on-orbit EMUs are No Go. All other ops, such as suit resizing, can be performed.
Only the American suits are (AFAIK) called "EMU" and the Russian Orlan suits are not resizeable. They are made in different sizes and you get the one that fits you best. They are not critical to tight fit.

or whatever it is that ISS expedition people wear, in ground training.
Usually EMUs in Houston and Orlans in Zvezdny.

unless a way is found to use the set of Russian spacesuits also on board the station.
This one is a bit strange, maybe they didn't plan for Orlan use by this crew and didn't pack the appropriate undergarment. Or Tani and Malenchenko are not trained for the Orlan (Whitson definitely is).

So it seems there are different not-usually-used Russian suits. It sure sounds like the potential problem is in the suit that is used for ISS spacewalks, whoever makes it.
There are some (3, I think) Orlans and a set of EMU components for 3 complete suits, the latter being resized upon crew rotation. When Peggy Whitson was up there with the Korzun crew back in 2002 they used the Orlans exclusively, the Bowersox crew used the EMUs on at least one EVA and possibly exclusively. IIRC Thomas Reiter, on his ISS stay, even used an EMU for his first and an Orlan for his second EVA. Maybe there is a system behind this, I still haven't figured it out. :) Maybe the location of the work to be done is important; Korzun/Whitson/Treshchov worked on the Russian part of the station, Bowersox on the US part, and the current Harmony related stuff happens on the forward part as well. But the Quest airlock can, by design, accommodate the Orlan, so this should not be a major obstacle.

Jens
2007-Nov-15, 03:26 AM
so, let me get this straight..
a suit being tested on the ground had a minor malfunction that led to a slight smoke smell, but they can't find anything actually wrong with it, so they had to form a panel to investigate it and tell the people up in space that they can't use their suits until the panel investigates and comes to a conclusion as to what happened?
how many $$$ is all of this going to cost us?
and some of you complain about a few parties that NASA throws for their employees and contractors..

I don't know if I'd be so critical. I think it is partly this kind of caution that has made it possible to have so few fatalities in space. It's never easy to walk the line between being too careful and not careful enough. Remember the O-rings?

stutefish
2007-Nov-15, 03:28 AM
so, let me get this straight..
a suit being tested on the ground had a minor malfunction that led to a slight smoke smell, but they can't find anything actually wrong with it, so they had to form a panel to investigate it and tell the people up in space that they can't use their suits until the panel investigates and comes to a conclusion as to what happened?
how many $$$ is all of this going to cost us?
and some of you complain about a few parties that NASA throws for their employees and contractors..
I don't see the problem, here. One can only imagine the tragedy that might have been averted, and the lives that might have been saved (not to mention the $$$ that might have been saved) if someone had noticed a "smoky" smell coming from inside an Apollo Command Module, and suspended all plugs-out tests until they were able to identify the cause.

Or if NASA had elected to suspend all STS launches until they'd resolved a certain O-ring problem.

Or if the Soviet Union had adopted a less ambitious heavy launch vehicle design in the 1960s.

Space operations are dangerous, painstaking work. I, for one, don't begrudge NASA or its counterparts around the world every ounce of caution they care to exercise. If they've discovered that their space suits are behaving in an unexpected way, then by all means suspend their use until the new behavior is understood.

01101001
2007-Nov-15, 04:59 AM
Usually EMUs in Houston and Orlans in Zvezdny.

Thanks for the update.

It looks like Quest module changed things as I remembered them. Space Station EVA (http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/eva/outside.html):


Before the arrival of the Joint Airlock Module, which is named Quest, on shuttle mission STS-104, spacewalks conducted from the space station could only use Russian spacesuits, unless the space shuttle was present. The Zvezda Service Module provides a capability for station-based Russian spacewalks using only Russian spacesuits. The Joint Airlock Module, which was attached to the station during the 10th space shuttle assembly flight, gave the station the capability to conduct spacewalks using U.S. spacesuits.

Swift
2007-Nov-15, 02:29 PM
It looks like Quest module changed things as I remembered them. Space Station EVA (http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/eva/outside.html):

Before the arrival of the Joint Airlock Module, which is named Quest, on shuttle mission STS-104, spacewalks conducted from the space station could only use Russian spacesuits, unless the space shuttle was present. The Zvezda Service Module provides a capability for station-based Russian spacewalks using only Russian spacesuits. The Joint Airlock Module, which was attached to the station during the 10th space shuttle assembly flight, gave the station the capability to conduct spacewalks using U.S. spacesuits.
From the link:

Station astronauts begin the pre-breathe protocol by exercising vigorously on the space station's cycle ergometer for a total of 10 minutes while breathing pure oxygen via an oxygen mask. After 50 total minutes of breathing pure oxygen, including the 10 minutes initially spent exercising, the pressure in the station's airlock will be lowered to 10.2 pounds per square inch, or psi.
But I still don't understand why the Quest module allowed the use of the US spacesuits. Is it something to do with this pre-breathe protocol, or something more mundane, like the size of the suit and the airlock?

Tucson_Tim
2007-Nov-15, 02:37 PM
so, let me get this straight..
a suit being tested on the ground had a minor malfunction that led to a slight smoke smell, but they can't find anything actually wrong with it, so they had to form a panel to investigate it and tell the people up in space that they can't use their suits until the panel investigates and comes to a conclusion as to what happened?
how many $$$ is all of this going to cost us?
and some of you complain about a few parties that NASA throws for their employees and contractors..

I'd much rather NASA spent money on a safety investigation that finds nothing than on a boondoggle.

KaiYeves
2007-Nov-15, 08:56 PM
It's never easy to walk the line between being too careful and not careful enough. Remember the O-rings?
To me, the word "O-ring" means "be careful", both because of Challenger and because, in scuba diving, a ruined O-ring means trouble getting air from your tank. When you are underwater, that is a VERY bad thing.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-15, 09:19 PM
Better safe than sorry, I know. Still, it's frustrating.

01101001
2007-Nov-17, 03:46 AM
MSNBC: NASA puts spacesuit worries to rest (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21824535/)


Engineers investigate smoky smell, then clear suits for spacewalks

NASA lifted a brief ban on U.S. spacewalks outside the international space station Thursday after engineers cleared the orbital laboratory's spacesuits of potential fire hazards, space agency officials said.
[...]
"They had overwhelming data that showed there was no evidence of a combustion event," NASA spokeswoman Lynette Madison told Space.com.

While engineers have not completely identified root cause of the Earth-based suit's smoky odor, the leading candidate is the specific canister used to remove carbon dioxide from the spacesuit's 100 percent oxygen interior, she added.
[...]
"The EMUs have the go for spacewalk use," according to an Expedition 16 status report issued Thursday. Because of the high flammability of a spacesuit's oxygen-rich atmosphere, NASA has to take any hint of smoke or combustion seriously in order to ensure the safety of spacewalking astronauts.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-17, 05:27 AM
NASA lifted a brief ban on U.S. spacewalks outside the international space station Thursday after engineers cleared the orbital laboratory's spacesuits of potential fire hazards, space agency officials said.
:clap::clap::clap: