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Russia complains to NASA over mysterious alcohol smell abroad ISS after SpaceX Crew Dragon visit

Russia complains to NASA over mysterious alcohol smell abroad ISS after SpaceX Crew Dragon visit
The SpaceX Crew Dragon has apparently brought a party spirit along with supplies on its very first visit to the International Space Station (ISS). Russia has sent a complaint to NASA about the strange delivery.

The incident occurred early in March, when the Crew Dragon arrived at the ISS, head of the Cosmonaut Training Centre Pavel Vlasov told RIA Novosti on Friday. As it was a test flight, the ship was unmanned and brought a load of supplies and a dummy astronaut instead of an actual crew.

On March 3, the station crew noticed a strong alcohol odor and ran some tests, discovering an unusually high concentration of isopropyl alcohol in the air – some 6 milligrams per cubic meter. Before the arrival of the Crew Dragon, the concentration was only a fraction of milligram, according to Vlasov. The cosmonauts had to employ air purification systems, managing to bring concentration to 2 milligrams, and it fell even further after the departure of the SpaceX ship.

In addition to the mysterious alcohol, the ship also set off an alarm in the Russian part of the station during the docking. While that might have signaled a malfunction in the station oxygen systems, it was deemed to be a false alarm. It remains unclear whether the alarm was actually linked to the arrival of the SpaceX vessel.

Russian space authorities have filed a complaint with NASA about the isopropyl issue, however. The US space agency has acknowledged the issue, describing the incident as "interesting," yet not dangerous to the station and its crew. SpaceX is cooperating with the investigation of the mysterious alcohol affair as well, according to NASA.

While the direct connection between the spirits abroad the ISS and the Crew Dragon is yet to be established, the alcohol affair adds to the string of mishaps plaguing the SpaceX vessel. Back in April, a Crew Dragon was obliterated in a powerful blast during engine tests. While both SpaceX and NASA initially downplayed the incident, describing it as an "anomaly," it was officially acknowledged this week that the ship did in fact undergo a "rapid unscheduled disassembly."

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The Crew Dragon, also known as Dragon 2, is a reusable, manned spacecraft designed to bring up to seven people abroad the ISS and back. It is an upgraded version of the Dragon-type transport vessel, employed for bringing supplies to the station.
With its development already behind schedule, the recent mishaps with the Crew Dragon threaten NASA's plans to have its own means of bringing astronauts to the ISS and back. Since the iconic Space Shuttle program was canceled back in 2011, the US has had to rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get astronauts into space.

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