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Technical Issue Delays German-Russia Animal-Tracking System Aboard ISS

Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station will need to make repairs to get a space-based animal-tracking system running (illustrative photo).

A German-Russian satellite system for detecting animal movements from space was shut down shortly after being switched on when cooling fans aboard the International Space Station (ISS) failed to operate.

Project leader Martin Wikelski of the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Biology in Germany said on July 10 that the Icarus computer on the ISS that runs the system was switched on as scheduled but quickly had to be turned off because of the technical glitch.

It was not immediately clear when another attempt would be made.

Wolfgang Pitz of the space company SpaceTech said Russian crew members aboard the ISS would need to fix the problem before it could be restarted. The German company designed and built the antenna for the project.

Pitz said the cosmonauts on the space station have a tight schedule and that "we have to see when they can accommodate it."

The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) said ahead of the launch that the project was designed to provide scientists with information about the life of animals on Earth through the space-based observation system.

Researchers on Earth are attaching small transmitters to animals. Measurement data will be sent to the antenna on the ISS.

The project will start out tracking blackbirds and turtle doves already outfitted with small global positioning system (GPS) tags, then move on to other songbirds, fruit bats, and bigger wildlife.

Ear tags will be used for big mammals like gazelle, jaguars, camels, and elephants, and leg-band tags for larger birds such as storks. The tags are easy to wear and should not bother the animals, officials have said.

Icarus stands for the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space, led by Wikelski of the Max Planck Institute in the southwestern German city of Konstanz.

Wikelski said he was "still positive" despite the delay, adding that the computer itself works and that the problems associated with the fans can be remedied.

The Russian space agency Roskosmos and the German Aerospace Center are involved in the project.

With reporting by dpa and Space Daily
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