A smoke alarm went off on Thursday in the Russian part of the International Space Station (ISS) and astronauts smoke “burning” aboard, the Russian space agency and NASA said.
The incident, which the Russian space agency Roscosmos said occurred at 01:55 GMT ahead of a planned spacewalk, is the latest in a series of issues that are raising security concerns over conditions in the Russian segment.
“During automatic battery charging, a smoke detector in the Zvezda service module of the Russian segment of the International Space Station went off and set off an alarm,” Roscosmos said in a statement.
A smoke alarm went off on Thursday in Russia’s Zvezda segment of the International Space Station (ISS) and astronauts smoke “burning” aboard, the Russian space agency and NASA said. Pictured: A view of the ISS seen in 2018 (file photo)
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet said “the smell of burning plastic or electronic equipment” wafted into the US part of the station, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing a NASA broadcast.
The Russian crew turned on a filter, and after the air was cleared, the astronauts went back to sleep, Roscosmos said.
The space agency said a planned spacewalk would go ahead as planned.
Russian Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov are scheduled to leave the station to continue work on the Nauka science module that docked in July.
“All systems work normally,” Roscosmos said.
The Russian part of the ISS has been experiencing several problems lately, and a space official warned last month that outdated software could lead to “irreparable failures.”
Pictured: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide (L) and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, both Expedition 33 flight engineers, work in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station September 25, 2012 (file photo)
The Zvezda service module, part of the Russian segment, has had several air leaks, including earlier this year and in 2019.
Citing concerns over outdated hardware, Russia has previously indicated that it plans to leave the ISS after 2025 and launch its own orbital station.
In July, the entire ISS flipped out of orbit after the Nauka module’s thrusters re-ignited just hours after docking.
And in August, Russian cosmonauts said they discovered new cracks in a part of the ISS that they fear could get worse over time.
The superficial “cracks” were found in the Zarya module, the first part of the ISS launched by Russia in 1998.
The country’s space officials have warned that the latest incident aboard the station, following the discovery of other cracks last year, could become more widespread in the coming years.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov (LR) of the ISS Expedition 65 prime crew. Novitsky and Dubrov are currently aboard the ISS
“Superficial cracks in the Zarya module have been found in some places,” Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of rocket and space company Energia, told RIA news agency at the time.
“This is bad and suggests that the fissures are going to spread over time.”
He didn’t say if air had leaked through the cracks.
Last year, ISS crew members spent weeks hunting for an air leak and tracing it to the main work area in Russia’s Zvezda module.
NASA stressed that the leak posed no immediate danger to the crew and caused only a minor deviation from the ongoing work schedule.
Mr Solovyov has previously said that much of the International Space Station’s equipment is beginning to age and has warned that there could be an “avalanche” of broken equipment after 2025.
In August 2018, astronauts rushed to repair a hole (pictured) that had appeared in the outer wall of the Soyuz capsule at the orbiting lab. Its origin was, and still is, a mystery despite widespread speculation
This is also the year Russia plans to abandon the ISS project, possibly to launch its own orbital station.
THE 100 BILLION ISS IS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH
The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth.
It has been permanently manned by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.
Research aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low gravity or oxygen.
ISS studies have explored human research, space medicine, life sciences, natural sciences, astronomy and meteorology.
The US space agency NASA spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.
A U.S. House of Representatives committee overseeing NASA has begun investigating whether the program could be extended beyond 2024.
Alternatively, the money could be used to accelerate planned human space initiatives to the Moon and Mars.
In April, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told the Russia 1 TV channel that Moscow planned to warn ISS partners of the withdrawal.
He notes that the station’s life is long gone and its condition “leaves something to be desired.”
It is not known whether Russia will decide to completely cease all work on the ISS.
It comes after NASA backtracked earlier this month on Russian claims that an American astronaut drilled a hole in the ISS in 2018 to force an early return to Earth that she was “having a psychological crisis.”
According to a report in TASS, Russia’s state news agency, Roscosmos insiders claimed multiple holes had been drilled by someone unfamiliar with the module design and without proper support to ensure accurate low-gravity drilling.
They claim NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor made the hole after a blood clot developed in her jugular vein that she had to treat herself, leading to an “acute psychological crisis.”
NASA declined to comment on the matters, but disputed the claim, describing the astronaut as extremely respected.
In August 2018, astronauts rushed to repair a hole that had appeared in the outer wall of the Soyuz capsule at the orbiting lab.
Its origin was and still is a mystery, despite widespread speculation and accusations from all sides.
It is thought that the latest report may be Roscosmos refuting NASA’s accusations about the arrival of the Russian Science module that will send the ISS into a spin in July.