Nasa briefly loses contact with International Space Station, relies on backup systems for first time

Crew was notified of problem through Russian communication systems within 20 minutes of a Nasa power outage

A Nasa power outage disrupted communication between mission control and the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday, forcing the space agency to rely on backup control systems for the first time.

Mission control could not send commands to the station or talk to the seven astronauts in orbit. The power outage hit as upgrade work was under way in the building at Houston’s Johnson Space Centre.

Space station programme manager Joel Montalbano said neither the astronauts nor the station were in any danger and that back-up control systems took over within 90 minutes.

The crew was notified of the problem through Russian communication systems, within 20 minutes of the outage.


It is the first time Nasa has had to fire up these back-up systems to take control, according to Mr Montalbano. He said Nasa hoped to resolve the issue and be back to normal operations by the end of the day.

Nasa maintains a backup control centre miles from Houston in the event a hurricane or other disaster requiring evacuations. But in Tuesday’s case, the flight controllers stayed at mission control since the lights and air-conditioning still worked.

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The tensions between the United States and Russia on Earth do not prevent their respective space agencies from working together, although Moscow has said it will withdraw from the ISS after 2024 and build its own station instead. In February, Moscow launched a rescue vessel to the ISS to bring home three crew stranded after their original capsule was hit by a meteoroid.

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Last year, cosmonauts arrived at the ISS wearing yellow flight suits with blue accents, colours that match the Ukrainian flag, shortly after Russia’s invasion began. The message, if any was intended, was unclear. Months later, Russia’s space agency published photos appearing to show cosmonauts on the ISS holding the flags of the self-proclaimed republics in Luhansk and Donetsk. – Agencies