Sat. Feb 4th, 2023

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has served as a silent witness to the formation of the universe for the past six years, quietly collecting approximately 100 billion cosmic rays, particles and nuclei with energies up to 1 trillion electron volts. “The results show unexpected phenomena — they are not predicted by current cosmic ray models — and this changes our understanding of the cosmos,” lead researcher Sam Ting told Ars.

But as this publication recently reported, there is a problem with the cooling system of the AMS particle detector and NASA is planning an extensive series of repairs. This likely includes a series of “Hubble-esque” spacewalks in 2018 to install a new cooling system for the $2 billion instrument. After the first story, Ting Ars provided more information on the extent and timing of the repairs.

According to Ting, there are four redundant pumps in the cooling system that keep AMS’s silicon tracker at a constant temperature of 10 degrees Celsius, plus or minus three degrees. The system was originally designed to last three years in space, but now, after nearly six years, two of the four pumps have stopped working. The experiment uses the third pump, which is operating normally. The fourth pump shows signs of failure and is therefore held in reserve.

Given that the rest of the experiment will continue to function beyond its design life, both the AMS scientists and NASA would like to see the experiment continue and are preparing to repair a machine that was not designed with maintenance in a orbit around the earth. The repairs will therefore entail several arduous spacewalks, for which NASA has been training teams of astronauts, engineers and flight controllers for more than a year. Ting explained that the repair plans are not yet final, but are starting to take shape.

“Together with the NASA Johnson Space Center, we improved the pump design to extend the life of AMS to coincide with the life of the ISS,” he said. “Twelve new pumps have been ordered and will be delivered in September of this year. After extensive testing, four of the new pumps are scheduled to be sent to the space station for replacements in the latter part of 2018.”

Despite the cost (one person involved in the planning said the repair could cost as much as $100 million in some cases), researchers say the extra time for data collection is critical to the success of the experiment. . “By collecting data up to at least 2024, we should be able to make a statement about the origin of dark matter and antimatter,” Ting said. “So far, all other instruments are operating normally and we expect them to remain operational on the space station throughout their lives.”

List image by NASA

By akfire1

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