The space station programme manager said the astronauts in orbit and the crew on the ground were never in danger.
A power outage at NASA’s building in Houston, Texas, led the US space agency to temporarily lose contact with the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday.
NASA's Mission Control team in the Johnson Space Center has been “vital to every US human spaceflight since the Gemini IV mission in 1965,” the space agency writes on its website. The centre is operated by flight controllers who work 24/7, 365 days a year keeping a constant watch on spacecrafts' systems, crew health, and activities, making sure everything goes as planned.
But things didn’t go as planned on Tuesday, when flight controllers at the centre were unable to send commands to the ISS and talk with seven astronauts in orbit. The incident was linked to upgrade work that was underway in the Johnson Space Center’s building.
The crew was notified of the problem through the Roscosmos channel, the Russian communication system, within 20 minutes of the outage, according to space station programme manager Joel Montalbano. He said that neither the astronauts nor the station crew were in any danger during the power outage.
“It wasn’t an issue on board. That was purely a ground problem,” Montalbano said at a press conference on the same day. “At no time was the crew or the vehicle in any danger.”
“We knew this work was going on, and in preparation for that we have the backup command and control system that we would use if we have to close the centre for weather emergency, especially important during the hurricane season.”
Backup control systems took over within 90 minutes of the outage - the first time that NASA has resorted to this system, according to Montalbano.
Despite tensions surrounding the war in Ukraine, which started in late February 2022, NASA and Russia are still cooperating in space. In late April, NASA announced that the ISS will remain in operation through 2028 - until it’s decommissioned - with the full cooperation of all its members, including Russia, despite Moscow previously saying it would leave the station after 2024.
The ISS was launched in 1998 as part of an initiative to improve relations between Washington and Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tensions of the Cold War. Last year, NASA announced it will be deorbited in January 2031.