Major energy shortage hits space station



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(Newser)

A major energy shortage on the International Space Station delayed SpaceX's offer this week. SpaceX was due to launch a shipment on Wednesday, the AP reported. But an old power-switching unit malfunctioned at the space station on Monday and knocked down two off-line power channels. The six remaining power channels are operating normally, according to NASA. Nasa said on Tuesday that the station and its six astronauts are safe, but because of the solar power grid, the launch of SpaceX is finalized until at least Friday. NASA wants to replace the failed unit to restore full power before sending the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule.

The collapse left the robotic arm of the station outside with one running power channel instead of two. Two power sources are needed – one as a backup – when the robot arm is used to capture visiting spaceships like the Dragon. Flight controllers will use the robot's arm to replace the defective unit with a spare later this week, preventing astronauts from leaving on a space walk. Solar wings collect and generate electricity for the entire space station, and any failure in this critical system can cut off power and affect operations. But there's no rush for that delivery: Northrop Grumman released supplies two weeks ago. Meanwhile, SpaceX is still investigating the loss of its new Dragon capsule designed for astronauts last month.

(Read more stories from the International Space Station.)

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