NASA is tracking down the source of a minor air leak on the International Space Station but NASA officials stressed that there is no threat to crew safety. Crewmembers of the station’s current Expedition 63 are in no immediate danger and will spend the weekend in the orbiting laboratory’s Russian segment, inside the Zvezda service module, NASA officials said in an update today (Aug. 20). Astronauts can work in a shirtsleeve environment inside the station, but the orbiting lab is never completely airtight; a little bit of air always leaks over time, requiring routine repressurization from nitrogen tanks that are sent up during cargo missions, NASA added in the update.
While the leak rate is higher than usual, it is still within specifications for the station and poses no immediate danger to the crew, NASA officials emphasized. Astronauts also deal with leak simulations during training for their stays on the space station, which typically are about six months long. This leak was first spotted in September 2019, when there were “indications of a slight increase above the standard air leak rate,” NASA said in the statement. “Because of routine station operations like spacewalks and spacecraft arrivals and departures, it took time to gather enough data to characterize those measurements. That rate has slightly increased, so the teams are working a plan to isolate, identify and potentially repair the source.”