back to article Space station springs a leak while astronauts are asleep (but don't panic)

NASA ground controllers received some disturbing readings from the International Space Station on Wednesday - air pressure inside the craft was falling. That’s not a good sign when you're 220 miles up in space. The ISS crew were asleep at the time, but ground control opted not to mention it to them, since the pressure drop …

  1. cbars
    Coat

    headline?

    micro-meteorite night plight might blight space-flight

    come on, there's even loads left!!

    sight light right.....

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: headline?

      I thought the "don't panic" reference was pretty good.

      And never go anywhere without your towel.

      1. cbars
        Joke

        Re: headline?

        wanna fight?

        1. Mycho Silver badge

          wanna fight?

          I'll set you alight.

  2. karlkarl Bronze badge

    What if one of those <2mm micro-meteorites hit something more important such as... a crew member?

    1. Niarbeht

      They need that about as much as they need another hole in their head.

    2. dansbar

      Then they're hurt or killed

      Welcome to space, where EVERYTHING will kill you. That's why it's so much fun to fo there.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Then they're hurt or killed

        You're meteoright...

      2. Bluto Nash

        Re: Then they're hurt or killed

        Welcome to space, where EVERYTHING will kill you.

        Wait - I thought that was Australia?

        1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          Re: Then they're hurt or killed

          Wait - I thought that was Australia?

          I thought it was California.

          1. Number6

            Re: Then they're hurt or killed

            No, in California it only might kill you.

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: Then they're hurt or killed

              Well it's certain that it's know to the state of cancer to cause California.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Then they're hurt or killed

                "Well it's certain that it's know[n] to the state of cancer to cause California."

                Uncle Bumblefuck?

                1. quxinot

                  Re: Then they're hurt or killed

                  >Uncle Bumblefuck?<

                  Glad I wasn't the only person with a mind that immediately went that route.

            2. Baldrickk Silver badge

              Re: Then they're hurt or killed

              eveything in:

              California might kill you

              Australia wants to kill you

          2. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Then they're hurt or killed

            Californians live somewhere pleasant but think everything is trying to kill them.

            Australians live somewhere where everything is trying to kill them but think it's pleasant.

        2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Then they're hurt or killed

          "Wait - I thought that was Australia?"

          Aren't you thinking of Fourecks?

          1. Warm Braw Silver badge

            Re: Then they're hurt or killed

            Aren't you thinking of Fourecks?

            Not sure if XXXX sells in Germany owing to the cultural power of the Reinheitsgebot, but if it did, I wonder if they'd use square cans.

          2. Julz

            Re: Then they're hurt or killed

            or Pyrrus.

      3. vincent himpe

        Re: Then they're hurt or killed

        wait. i though space was full of nothing ...

      4. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Then they're hurt or killed

        Welcome to space, where EVERYTHING will kill you.

        The nothing can be pretty bad as well, if you get it in your lungs.

      5. Unicornpiss Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Then they're hurt or killed

        "Welcome to space, where EVERYTHING will kill you."

        That's what humans have to contend with when we leave our little terrarium. Not that the terrarium won't try to kill us sometimes too.

        Obligatory Far Side cartoon: cartoon

    3. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Duct tape

      Humm, duct tape the Astronaut?

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Duct tape

        that 'kapton tape' stuff is used in electronic equipment a lot. One typical use, to tape the wires up on a LiPo battery to (help) keep it from bursting into flames.

        1. Peter Mount

          Re: Duct tape

          It's also good at both low & high temperatures, hence why there's some on the bed of my 3D printer

      2. Pedigree-Pete
        Thumb Up

        Re: Duct tape

        Well, it worked for Mark Watney. :) PP

    4. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge
      Boffin

      Hit a crewmember?

      >What if one of those <2mm micro-meteorites hit something more important such as... a crew member?

      No material change.

      It'd leak for a bit, then they'd jettison it.

  3. Zwuramunga

    HHGTG Update

    Mostly Leak-proof.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So the didn't have a Patch Tuesday but a Patch Wednesday then?

  5. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    You can buy it online for $10 a roll.

    Good job this problem wasn't during a peak sales season e.g., Christmas, otherwise they'd have to wait a few days for it to be delivered.

    1. StephenH

      Re: You can buy it online for $10 a roll.

      $10 a roll plus delivery charges of ?

      1. wyatt

        Re: You can buy it online for $10 a roll.

        Well, to the ISS who knows! Maybe they’ve prime?

        1. BOBSta

          Re: You can buy it online for $10 a roll.

          "Well, to the ISS who knows! Maybe they’ve prime?"

          I can't see Bezos delivering there for free even thought he's playing catch-up to Musk! ...or perhaps that's what he's going to do with that $1T?

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: You can buy it online for $10 a roll.

      That just reminded me of a little ditty from when I was a kid,

      Shine up your buttons with Brasso

      It's only 2 ha'pence a tin

      You can buy it or nick it from Woolworths

      But you still don't get very much in!

  6. DJV Silver badge

    Kapton tape

    I'm disappointed that all the kapton tape sources I could find didn't say "As used on the space station" anywhere.

    1. Florida1920 Silver badge

      Re: Kapton tape

      I'm disappointed that all the kapton tape sources I could find didn't say "As used on the space station" anywhere.
      Kapton's Wikipedia page has already been patched.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Kapton tape

        "already been patched."

        I see what you did there

    2. Pat Harkin

      Re: Kapton tape

      "Polyethylene coated pressure-sensitive tape

      It's tried, it's true, nothing it can't do

      Fixed the fender on the rover that was left on the moon

      It's good enough for you"

      Barenaked Ladies: Duct Tape Heart https://g.co/kgs/4i5w5y

  7. Vulch

    The last couple of paragraphs are complete cobblers. Soyuz MS-09 *is* due to return to Earth *with* crew at the end of the year. The leak is in its orbital module so should not cause problems for the crew in the re-entry module. Only the Progress cargo variant is disposed of entirely.

    1. Mark Exclamation

      Careful, or you'll get someone shouting at you:

      "If you go to the bottom of the article there is a link that says "Tips and corrections".

      HOW ABOUT LEARNING HOW TO USE IT!

      Sheesh!"

      I got one a few days ago, and, boy, did it make me feel indifferent!

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        And as we all know, that link actually requires using email and some of us prefer not to.

  8. Herby Silver badge

    Small leak???

    "Or it could just be a weak spot in the Soyuz that just let go."

    Must be that GREAT soviet build quality we've heard all about. As for the kapton tape, I wonder if Amazon has "two day delivery" to the ISS ready to go. Somebody must have fronted the bill for Amazon Prime somewhere in NASA, I would think.

    1. AndyS

      Re: Small leak???

      >Must be that GREAT soviet build quality we've heard all about

      Are you American, by any chance? Because your stupid is showing.

      Firstly, when something breaks, it is normal to try and work out why. And yes, a manufacturing fault is one option, obviously.

      Secondly, the very next sentence in the article states that this is unlikely. Did you just stop reading when you came across something that seemed to confirm your slightly xenophobic stereotypes?

      Thirdly, and this one is important. Why is the US relying on Russian engineering to get its astronauts into space? Maybe you should stop to ponder the inability of the US to transport its own astronauts before you take a shit on the Russians who have, by all sensible measures, won the space race.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Small leak???

        Russian space ship, American space ship... all made in Taiwan.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Small leak???

          Nice Armageddon reference. Reminds me of one of my favourites...

          "You know we’re sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?"

          The 'lowest bidder' trope was actually a real one from teh first set of astronauts in the 1960s, although it's not clear who exactly originated it.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

            Re: lowest bidder quote

            Usually attributed to John Glenn, but according to Gene Kranz (in his book 'Failure Is Not An Option') actually Alan Shepard. Both good.

            http://books.google.com/books?id=slQZ3JOUSKQC&q=%22The+fact+that+every+part+of+this+ship+was+built+by+the+low+bidder%22&pg=PA201#v=onepage

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Small leak???

      "Must be that GREAT soviet build quality we've heard all about."

      Yeah you're right really. I mean the Soyuz is around 60 years old in design and is the safest and most reliable spacecraft ever built by man. It's quite obviously lacking in the build quality department.

      Pity that the space shuttle isn't around to show how 'murican quality wins the day eh?

      Prick.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Small leak???

      " I would think".

      You SHOULD think.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From news report I've just heard then the initial fix was an Astronaut placing his finger over the leak ... NASA ground control apparently made an announcement to let people know this - adding that this was "not seen as a long term solution" to the leak!

    1. BOBSta

      Muppets

      When this happened to the USS Swinetrek, Captain Hogthrob plugged the hole with his snout.

  10. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Kaptans Log

    That is all.....

    Icon for the thumb to plug the hole.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Kaptans Log

      some kid in amsterdam volunteered for that (thumb in the hole), except he was already busy with his finger in a dike...

      (whoops I almost spelled that wrong)

      coat, please...

  11. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Coat

    TITSUP ??

    Tape Ingenuity Tackles Soyuz µ-meteorite Piercing

    <I'll get my coat>

  12. Martin Gregorie Silver badge
    Coat

    I wonder if...

    ...Wednesday's ISS ground controllers managed to resist using:

    ISS, you have a problem

    for their wake-up call.

  13. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Boffin

    Pedantic Alert

    "It’s capable of retaining its stickiness in temperatures ranging from −269 to +400 Celsius"

    It's actually not the Kapton tape that is sticky. It's the adhesive (which shall toil on in anonymity).

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Pedantic Alert

      It's very clever adhesive. It knows how to stick to one side of the kapton tape, but not the other!

      Kapton - the best tape in the universe (apart from gaffer tape, of course!)

    2. Unicornpiss Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Pedantic Alert

      "It’s capable of retaining its stickiness in temperatures ranging from −269 to +400 Celsius"

      I met a used car salesman that had a handshake like that..

  14. Winkypop Silver badge
    Windows

    Trash day?

    Just leave the old parts outside the craft.

    Some guy in an old space-van will call by and take all the metals and valuable items.

  15. Joe Gurman

    You do know....

    .... that's not just NASA, but NASA and Roscosmos that operate the ISS jointly, don't you?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: You do know....

      ... and European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

      Ownership & jurisdiction:

      http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/International_Space_Station/International_Space_Station_legal_framework

  16. TRT Silver badge

    Reminds me...

    Of many happy hours spent playing Traveller. Essential part of the space ship's inventory, roll of Gaffer tape.

    1. Stuart 22

      Re: Reminds me...

      Kapton Log: "Prepare to decouple Soyuz"

      * Checks stock of WD-40 *

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. drand
    Thumb Up

    A wise old engineer once said to me:

    If you can't fix it with duct tape, you're not using enough duct tape.

    1. PerlyKing
      Go

      Re: If you can't fix it with duct tape...

      ...you may need some cable ties.

      Duct tape: for when it shouldn't move but does.

      (Rocket) WD40: for when it should move but doesn't.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: If you can't fix it with duct tape...

        Big hammers for everything else...

  19. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Kapton tape good

    Kapton wiring not so much as although it's a good insulator it degrades fairly rapidly when subject to chaffing which lead to a number of aircraft accidents. I seem to remember an episode of Panorama or similar about the problem as the MoD had a lot of it in their aircraft.

    1. 6491wm

      Re: Kapton tape good

      the problem with Kapton insulation is that it suffers from a phenomenon known as "arc tracking" which is why when I was working on Tornados many years ago we spent a great deal of time during Major Servicing "protecting" the kapton with Spywrap ;)

  20. imanidiot Silver badge

    Not reported are the arguments

    The current ISS commander is an American. The leak is in a Russian Soyuz with a Russian capsule commander. This apparently lead to some friction where the ISS commander wanted to wait for the ground to give them the go ahead for a certain fix while the capsule commander decided to just go ahead and bung a rag with some sealant in the hole.

  21. Tony W

    How did they find it?

    My experience with bicycles is, finding that you have a slow leak is one thing, finding the leak is another. Immersion in a bucket of water doesn't seem to be an option so I winder how they did it.

    And if Kapton tape is not a sufficiently long-term solution, do they have another puncture repair outfit ofr some sort?

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: How did they find it?

      My guess:

      Step 1: seal each compartment, monitor each compartment for pressure. This identifies the compartment the leak is in.

      Step 2: Option 1: Float something really light and non-damaging to anything in the compartment around the walls of the target compartment. A leak should induce a slight current towards the hole. Follow this to the hole. I vaguely remember some S-F story that had balloons filled with gunk deployed in the event of a breach - they'd get sucked to the hole and then burst over it - the balloon material providing some of the seal, the gunk being the glue. Good enough for a temporary fix and to identify the area in need of attention.

      Step 2: Option 2: If some sort of remote camera is present outside, look for the air venting out. Manual inspection to then find it on the inside.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: How did they find it?

        Oddly there's no detail on the various space sites that I can find, although there's an earlier article on RELL that is an external scanner that has been used to isolate leak locations before.

        Also, there's this article on using sound to find leaks.

      2. cray74

        Re: How did they find it?

        Step 1: seal each compartment, monitor each compartment for pressure. This identifies the compartment the leak is in.

        That was the basic technique . A 2mm hole wouldn't generate a draft that would stir dust or light objects.

        I'm surprised El Reg didn't mention that prior to taping the puncture, an astronaut (Alexander Gerst) plugged it with his finger.

      3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: How did they find it?

        From my novelisation* of the second Cyberman story, a hole in the weather control base on the moon is patched by positioning a coffee tray (metal\plastic) over the hole & letting air pressure hold it in place.

        *Thanks BBC for the wiping policy.

      4. quxinot

        Re: How did they find it?

        As far as finding the leaks, if it's venting to the outside, there must be a reactionary thrust from the escaping gas. I wonder how much that screws with the orbit, and how detectable it is.

  22. Ballast

    At least Trump can complain about the Russians leaking things now.

  23. strum Silver badge

    If this was a micro-meteor impact, shouldn't there be an 'exit wound' of some kind - either another hole, or an unspecified dent, or a small cluster of meteor-dust?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Based on the microscopic to barely visible estimate of the likely size of the impactor, it most likely vaporised on impact.

    2. Brangdon

      It was a drill hole. It was probably made on land by mistake and then covered up.

  24. I&I

    Wot no airlock door to capsule?

    Seems kinda mad. Like all those pipes and cables run through bulkhead doors (so they can’t be quickly closed). Would have expected the whole shebang to be run like a submarine.

  25. I&I

    Wot, no airlock door to capsules?

    Seriously? Or at least not left shut by default?

    But hey it’s all been plain sailing so far...

  26. hayzoos

    What part of International Space Station do some of the commentards here not understand? Ingenuity knows no borders. It must be a prerequisite to becoming a spacefarer.

    I saw mention of duct tape, zip ties, wd-40, let us not forget the tried and true mechanic's wire.

  27. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Fundamentals of Mechanical Engineering

    Four cases:

    Something isn't moving and should: WD-40

    Something is moving and shouldn't: tape

    Something isn't moving and shouldn't: leave it alone or add more tape

    Something is moving and should: leave it alone or lube

  28. SonOfDilbert
    Alert

    Terrorism

    In all seriousness, (and I'm not suggesting that this is the case with this incident) - how long before a vehicle like this becomes a target for terrorism?

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