Disaster averted with ISS spacewalk aborted after spacesuit water leak inside air lock

by | Jun 25, 2024 | International Space Station, NASA, Seradata News

A spacewalk attempt on the International Space Station (ISS) was dramatically cut short after a spacesuit water leak occurred inside the airlock.

The Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA-90) started on 24 June with the two astronauts, Tracy Dyson and Mike Barratt, fully suited up inside the ISS Quest airlock. It was meant to last seven hours to allow the astronauts to remove a faulty communications box and collect microbe samples held outside the station. The mission began normally: depressurisation had been completed and the hatch was opened at 1244 GMT. However, Dyson’s spacesuit began spouting water from a coolant system attachment on her suit, prompting mission control to call off the spacewalk. The hatch was closed at 1254 GMT and repressurisation started at 1318 GMT (all times from Jonathan McDowell).

Astronauts Dyson and Barratt before the leak. Courtesy: NASA TV

Water leaks in spacesuits have happened before. Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano nearly drowned due to a leak as water accumulated inside his helmet in July 2013. A similar incident occurred to German astronaut Matthias Maurer in 2022. Fortunately, neither were harmed.

Update on 27 June: The manufacturer behind NASA’s EMU (Extravehicular Activity Mobility Unit) suits – including those worn by Dyson and Barratt during their abandoned EVA – has pulled out of its contract.

The NASA xEVAS (Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services) contract, valued at US$97.2 million, commissioned Collins Aerospace to produce a spacewalking suit for use on the ISS and later LEO space stations. It was to include an in-orbit demonstration as part of the first task order.

However, the shock announcement by Collins – reportedly made by mutual consent with NASA – has left those plans in the lurch as NASA will need to secure a new developer for its suits. In the meantime, Collins will continue to support NASA’s existing EMU suits.

Comment by David Todd: Seradata counts this as a spacewalk given that the hatch was opened – our measure of the start of a spacewalk.

More importantly, NASA had better fix these spacesuit water leak issues, or there could be a disaster during an EVA. To borrow from WWI Vice Admiral David Beatty: “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody spacesuits today.”

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