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NASA is considering whether an emergency spacewalk by the crew of space shuttle Discovery is needed to clear a stuck valve in a critical cooling loop at the International Space Station, officials said Wednesday.
Mission Control would have to add a 15th day to the shuttle flight in order to squeeze in the spacewalk, which would be the fourth for this mission.
Flight director Ron Spencer said repeated attempts from the ground to open the nitrogen valve by remote control have failed. Unless flight controllers somehow succeed, a spacewalk will be required — either by Discovery's astronauts or by the space station crew after the shuttle leaves.
STATUS REPORT : STS-131-20 STS-131 MCC Status Report #20 HOUSTON – As the crew on orbit took an afternoon break, teams on the ground continued troubleshooting problems with a jammed cooling system valve, assessing options and developing plans for a possible fourth spacewalk.
The closed valve is in a nitrogen tank assembly needed to pressurize a new ammonia tank installed on the International Space Station by Discovery’s astronauts. The ammonia tank was installed during three spacewalks by Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson.
With the help of a team of engineers, Mission Control has sent multiple commands to attempt to open the valve normally. The efforts included sending commands while the valve was at its coldest and hottest. So far, the attempts have not succeeded. Additional troubleshooting is planned while the crew sleeps this evening. The closed valve could degrade the performance of the station's cooling system under certain conditions.
The operation to move the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) from the International Space Station back to space shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay for return to Earth has been delayed due to a problem with the mechanism that holds the MPLM in place.