Cover-Up on the ISS?

August 9, 2010

I got an email yesterday from someone I used to know slightly at NASA Lewis. He ended up retiring a decade after I moved on. He did some contract work on shuttle and ISS systems. We were never close but a thermodynamics buddy of mine who was also briefly at Lewis would mention this guy now and again as they crossed paths, and more so when they consulted on the same project about five years ago. My friend was no fan of this guy, not because of his work, which was solid as far as I ever heard, but because this guy had an extremely abrasive personality and was given to some pretty off-color humor.

I’m not sure how I ended up being on the receiving end of this guy’s email, the email itself was sent with the recipients hidden in the BCC field. I have no idea to how many people this was sent, but presumably quite a few if I ended up on the list.

I’ve been following the reported PVTCS issues on the ISS and they’re peddling a load of crap. They knew this wasn’t a simple PFCS failure before they did the first EVA. The timetable and procedures are all wrong for a normal PFCS replacement. My best guess is a micrometeorite strike of the PVR, causing coolant pressure loss and contamination, overworking the PFCS until it failed, or a direct PFCS strike with coolant contamination. It’d hardly be the first time they covered up a strike of the ISS. You heard from Jack? I haven’t spoken to him since the fall conference, wonder if he knows something.

Some Googling identified the PVTCS as the entire cooling system, the PFCS appears to be the pump module, and the PVR is the radiator.

I’m not sure I buy the validity of what this guy is saying, I am not at all familiar with the ISS systems. I forwarded it to my friend to see what he thought and got a one line response, “That asshole is just pissed off he lost his fat shuttle contract.” There’s no love lost between the two of them, and my friend’s a pretty toe-the-line sort of guy, so he isn’t likely to go against what NASA reports.

I am not aware of NASA covering up any significant micrometeorite strikes. I remember reports of a few serious ones to the shuttle, found as part of the stepped up imaging after the tragedy following the foam strikes, and those were hardly kept from the public. Something as large as the ISS is bound to be routinely hit, given its many years in orbit, and thus such strikes would hardly be news worthy, unless perhaps the risks to astronaut safety are greater than is widely known. I can imagine NASA might be motivated to keep such a danger quiet at a time when it’s being forced to mothball the shuttle fleet and terminate its plans to return to the moon. The ISS is NASA’s last stand in space, and they would not be expected to give it up without a fight. But are they covering up the nature of the PVTCS failure on the ISS? I’m not yet convinced.

Advertisements