ILC Dover Helping Solve Problem after Water Leak During Spacewal - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

ILC Dover Helping Solve Problem after Water Leak During Spacewalk


FREDERICA, Del. (WBOC) - Frederica-based ILC Dover is helping NASA figure out what caused an astronaut's space suit helmet to start filling with water during a space walk last week. The EVA abruptly ended and the Italian astronaut having problems was brought inside. Now all non-emergency space walks are on hold until engineers determine what happened.

ILC Dover is a big part of that search for a cause. The company has been making space suits for NASA since the Apollo program. It made the suits currently on the international space station - including the one involved in last week's tense moments.

Phil Spampinato says staff from ILC Dover was monitoring the space walk when the leak started.

And after the incident, the company was part of the team put together to figure out what happened.

"The first things that's looked at is - What are the obvious things? What are the possibilities?" Spampinato said. "We think of the suit in two major subsystems - the suit itself, the thing that looks like a man."

That ILC Dover makes.

"[Then there's] this box that's on his back, this portable life support system," he said.

That ILC Dover does not make.

"You start looking for where are the water sources," Spampinato said. "Those are all suspect. You create as big a list as possible and reasonable. Then you start eliminating as you go forward."

Engineers started looking at two general possibilities for where the water may have come from - somewhere inside the suit or somewhere inside the backpack.

Bill Ayrey says there was focus on two specific items inside the suit.

"The items that they used on that mission - the drink bag and the liquid cooling garment - from what I understand, they've looked at those parts and haven't found any issues with them at all."

"Those things that contain water on the suit side have currently been eliminated as likely candidates," said Spampinato.

That appears to leave the life-support backpack as the potential source of the water. Once a definite culprit is established, astronauts will have to check all the equipment for the issue before space walks can resume.

ILC Dover's space suits have a great track record in space. It took about 1,000 hours in the suits just to put the space station together. This is the first time an issue has ever interrupted a spacewalk.

The company says there's no time table for the investigation or when space walks may resume.

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