Friday, November 21, 2008

1110a 11/21 Update: Urine processor


Posted: 11:10 AM, 11/21/08

By William Harwood
CBS News Space Analyst

Changes and additions:

   SR-45 (11/20/08): Spacewalk successful; engineers run into glitch starting urine processor
   SR-46 (11/21/08): Urine processing underway; crew news conference on tap
   SR-47 (11/21/08): Urine processor shuts down again; troubleshooting continues


11:10 AM, 11/21/08, Update: Urine processor shuts down again; troubleshooting continues

The new urine processor assembly aboard the international space station, a key component in a water recycling system needed to convert urine and condensate into drinking water, was re-activated early today after problems Thursday. The processor operated for about two hours and then shut itself down again. Engineers are troubleshooting error messages while the astronauts press on with other work.

"About two and a half hours ago, the urine processor assembly was reactivated so that additional data could be garnered from that device," mission control commentator Rob Navias said shortly after 10 a.m. "It ran until just a few minutes ago when it shut itself down once again after processing urine through that system. It is now under analysis as to why it shut itself down.

"But the good news is that it was activated and ran for about two hours. This is typical of a new piece of hardware, with all the software limits and various parameters of of the operation of the system that have to be fine tuned and tweaked in the early stages of its operation. The oxygen generation system in the U.S. segment of the international space station went through similar growing pains last year when it was first installed and activated. It is now up and running in good shape and the full expectation by engineers is that this is only a momentary hiccup that will be overcome through further data analysis by the ground engineers here at mission control."

In the crew's morning planning conference with mission control, Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke was briefed on the troubleshooting and problems experienced to date and told to hold off on a planned water system task.

"The urine processor was processing and delivering to the water processor and we recently got an error message about an hour ago. We're evaluating that right now," said astronaut Terry Virts in mission control.

"OK, Terry, thanks for the update," Fincke replied. "Yeah, we saw that error message also. And you know, Terry, this is one of our highest mission priorities, so anything you guys can put in the daily summary and keep us informed during the day, we're, shall we say, a hundred percent interested in how this new water reclamation system's working for us. So thanks for the update. I understand you guys are troubleshooting and I may have to do this task later in the day, but flexibility is key, as they say."

"OK, yeah, thanks Mike, you're exactly right and we'll keep you a hundred percent informed," Virts said. "We have some more words about the UPA I can tell you."

"OK, go ahead."

"The UPA caution software, we learned some things about it last night in terms of some malfunctions that are paired up with messages that are different than we had thought originally. The UPA hazard message is one you got yesterday and it turns out that message is not critical and it's going to be suppressed on board. So you'll see it, but you won't hear it. So if you do see that, there's not going to be any actions for that."

"OK, Terry, we understand and this is just part of the normal flight test checkout process," Fincke replied. "That's why it's really good to keep us informed so we can be helpful. We also built additional time in the schedule, I think we're probably a day or two ahead of our original plan, just for such occasions to learn the nuances of the software. So thanks."

"Yeah, that's exactly right, Mike. There's another message, it's 'UPA electrical overheating safing initiated.' If you look in your event log, you'll see it down there a few hours back. But that message, we do need actions for you to do.In fact, you're going to treat it like an RPC trip and do the same thing that you did yesterday when you had that 'UPA hazard' message."

An RPC, or remote power controller, is a sort of circuit breaker and when a trip occurs, the astronauts must run tests to make sure nothing overheated or posed a fire hazard.

While troubleshooting proceeded on the ground, shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson and pilot Eric Boe geared up to fire Endeavour's maneuvering rockets to boost the station's altitude slightly. The reboost maneuver was expected at 12:10 p.m.


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