Biggest Gadget in Space has Power Supply Issues

iss20070819.jpgWhat’s the worst thing that could happen aboard a space station? Try running out of power. OK, that’s maybe not the worst thing, but it’s pretty damn bad. While the power hasn’t cut out entirely on the International Space Station, NYTimes.com is reporting that the station’s power system has been damaged.

The thing with space stations is that they are not Earth stations. In other words, everything has to be incredibly exact and specific or lives could be lost. So, when metal shavings were found during a space walk, astronauts became concerned–especially when combining this find with another observation that the Solar Array Rotating Joint (inside of which the shavings were found) had been vibrating in a way that was not normal.

That’s space for ya–it’s a place where vibrations and shavings mean you might have a problem with the part of your home that keeps the systems that keep you alive running. Now just what is the deal with this “Solar Array Rotating Joint” that makes it so integral to keeping people alive? The key word there is “solar.”

See, what the SARJ (!) does is help keep the solar panels of the space station pointed at the sun at all times. So, if you can’t keep those panels aimed at the sun at all times it means you are going to see power issues like the ones they have in Baghdad. This is bad in Baghdad but much worse when you’re orbiting the Earth.

The good news here is that the SARJ still functions. However, this does not mean that the ISS crew is done being concerned. Once again, because this is space, they have to work out where the shavings came from and why the SARJ was vibrating. Once the do that, astronauts can (hopefully) fix the problem and continue to breath both easily and, you know, at all.

[NYTimes.com, photo: NASA.gov]

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