NASA headquarters in Houston experienced a rare power outage that temporarily disrupted communications with the International Space Station (ISS). For the first time since the ISS became operational in 2009, backup control systems had to be used to restore communications with the astronauts on board.
The power outage occurred on Tuesday, July 25, and lasted about 90 minutes before normal communications could be restored. During that time, NASA used Russian communications systems to keep in touch with the astronauts, including Frank Rubio, Woody Hoburg and Steven Bowen. The Expedition 69 crew also includes Roscosmos cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin, Andrey Fedyaev, Commander Sergey Prokopyev and UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyadi.
NASA space station program manager Joel Montalbano assured reporters at a press conference that there was no danger to the crew or the ship. He explained that the interruptions in the station’s operation were caused solely by ground problems and not by problems aboard the space station.
The power outage was the result of planned upgrades to the ground power system at the Johnson Space Center. While the outage itself was unexpected, NASA has prepared for such situations by having a backup control system in place. This system is typically used during emergencies due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. Within 20 minutes of the power outage, NASA’s mission control center was able to establish communication with the space station using Russian systems. Shortly thereafter, a backup control center located a few miles from the station was activated.
“We knew this work was coming, and in preparation for it, we had a backup control system that we could use if we had to shut down the center due to weather conditions – this is especially important during hurricane season,” Montalbano said. “That equipment was ready to go … In about 90 minutes, we had full command, telemetry and voice communications with the International Space Station.”
NASA has since fixed the problem and the mission control system is fully operational again. The agency plans to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident to prevent similar incidents in the remaining years of ISS operations before it deorbits in 2031.
The International Space Station (ISS) is a manned space station that serves as a laboratory for scientific research and international cooperation. It was launched in 1998 and has been in permanent service since November 2000. The ISS is a joint project of NASA, Roscosmos, ESA, JAXA and CSA.
– “At no time was the crew or ship ever in danger.” – Joel Montalbano, NASA space station program manager.
Dr. Sarah Johnson, a space scientist at the University of Houston, commented on the power outage incident, “While power outages are rare at NASA Headquarters, they serve as a reminder of the complex systems needed to keep astronauts connected in space. It is critical for NASA to have redundant control systems in place to ensure the safety and success of missions like the ISS.”