JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — Flight control personnel at Johnson Space Center were working Thursday to fix a cooling system malfunction on the International Space Station that might require crew members to conduct an emergency spacewalk.

A broken valve caused one of two cooling loops on the station to break down Wednesday. The cooling loops use ammonia to keep equipment on the station at the correct temperature.

The station powered down some noncritical equipment and halted work on several experiments.

Space station manager Kenny Todd said the crew was in no danger, and noted that a software repair might make a spacewalk unnecessary to repair the faulty valve.

NASA has not conducted a spacewalk since July 16, when a water leak in crew member Luca Parmitano’s helmet briefly rendered the Italian astronaut unable to see or hear and forced the excursion’s early cancellation. 

If a spacewalk is necessary to fix the problem, Todd said extra precautions would be taken to guard against any potential leaks.

The malfunction could delay the launch of Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft, which was scheduled to dock with the space station next week. It will be the first full resupply mission for the private company, which successfully completed a demonstration mission last month.

Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5244 or

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