Astronauts Report Smoke Alarms, Burning Plastic Smell on the ISS

The concerning event on Thursday is the latest in a series of problems with Russian modules on the International Space Station.
September 9, 2021, 2:47pm
The concerning event on Thursday is the latest in a series of problems with Russian modules on the International Space Station.
Interior of Zveda
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Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) woke up to fire and smoke alarms  triggered by an incident in the Russian Zvezda module early on Thursday. The crew saw smoke and smelled an odor of burnt plastic in Zvezda, which was recharging its batteries at the time, reports the Associated Press.

Though the exact cause of the smoke and odors is not yet clear, the ISS crew restored safe air quality in the station by activating an aggregate filtration system, according to the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The incident is not expected to interfere with ISS activities, including a seven-hour spacewalk scheduled for Thursday, which will be conducted by cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov.

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“All systems are operating normally and the composition of air onboard the station corresponds to the standard parameters,” said Roscosmos in a Tweet.

The triggering of the smoke alarm follows multiple recent incidents involving Russian modules. On July 21, Roscosmos launched its newest module, Nauka, to the ISS after more than a decade of delays. Nauka’s trip to the station was troubled from the start, as the spacecraft lost its bearings and drifted off course, requiring orbital maneuvers to bring it back on track. 

After further delays in orbit, the module at last docked with the ISS on July 29. The relief of its long-anticipated arrival was quickly disrupted when Nauka unexpectedly fired its thrusters, causing the entire station to rotate out of its safe position, a dramatic misfire that Roscosmos attributed to a software glitch.

Moreover, in late August, Reuters reported that cracks had been found in the walls of the Russian Zarya module, which could potentially cause long-term problems. Zvezda has also been the source of air leaks in recent months that have required repairs.