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NASA Engineers Detect Leak on Space Station

NASA detected what could be a small air leak within a recently installed module on the International Space Station. The space agency expects to conduct several more tests today to determine if there is truly a leak within the gateway of the Harmony module and the space station.

Harmony was launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery to serve as a gateway between the station’s oldest U.S. and Russian segments and the future European Columbus and Japanese Kibo science modules.

The leak rate within a small vestibule, or chamber, where Harmony and the U.S. lab are joined was measured at about 3 pounds per day as the result of a 15- hour leak check conducted by space station commander Peggy Whitson and her crew.

NASA is preparing the shuttle Atlantis for a December 6 liftoff with Columbus. The potential air loss has not interrupted those preparations.

The Discovery crew attached Harmony to a temporary docking port on the station on Oct. 26.

On November 12, Whitson’s crew used the station’s robot arm to attach a shuttle docking mechanism to the front of Harmony, establishing a parking spot for Atlantis. Two days later, the station’s astronauts used the robot arm again to transfer Harmony and the docking mechanism to their final attachement point.

Two spacewalks by Whitson and colleague Dan Tani last week tied the newest module into the station’s solar power and cooling networks, preparing Harmony for the arrival of Atlantis.