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Marshall Space Flight Center: Space Station Hardware & Life Support

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Space Station Hardware & Life Support

Dr. Lisa Monaco examines a prototype chip.Scientists, engineers and technicians at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center are performing critical developmental work to ensure the continued operation of the International Space Station while also focusing their expertise on the next era of space exploration.

Marshall also is a key developer of space station flight hardware and the development of systems critical to the future of space exploration. The center's work on station hardware includes management of three Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules used as "moving vans" to carry equipment, experiments and supplies to and from the station via the space shuttle. Racks and equipment could be unloaded from the modules while the shuttle was docked with the station, and old racks and equipment could be reloaded and returned to Earth. Today, the module dubbed "Leonardo" has been converted into a Pressurized Multipurpose Module, mated to the station's Unity module to serve as a long-term storage facility for supplies and spare parts, enabling longer periods between resupply missions.

Engineers and scientists at the Marshall Center also led development of four key systems supporting science operations and investigations on board the International Space Station including the EXPRESS Racks, the Microgravity Science Glovebox facility, the Materials Science Research Rack and the Windows Observational Research Facility.

Marshall teams developed the Oxygen Generation System and Water Recovery System technologies as part of the station's Environmental Control and Life Support Systems, or ECLSS, which provides a safe and comfortable environment for the crew and ensures a pure supply of water and air. The Wastewater Recovery System "recycles" waste water into usable water, while the Marshall-developed Oxygen Generation System provides oxygen for breathing air for the crew. Both help NASA cut costs and maintain a quality standard of living for explorers in orbit.

The Marshall team also guided development of Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development Portable Test System, or LOCAD-PTS. This system is a handheld device for rapid detection of biological and chemical substances on board the space station. It provides an early warning system to enable crewmembers to take remedial measures if necessary to protect the health and safety of everyone on board.

The Marshall Center also led development and management of Nodes 1, 2 and 3 -- modules which interconnect the assembly elements of the International Space Station. Built at the Marshall Center by the Boeing Company, Node 1, or "Unity," launched to the station in 1998. It was the first U.S.-built component of the station, providing internal storage and serving as a link between station elements. Node 2, or "Harmony," which launched to the station in 2007, serves as a connector for three station laboratories. It is also a working base point for the Canadian robotic arm, Canadarm 2, used for moving equipment and supplies outside the station and supporting astronauts working in space. Node 3, or "Tranquility," was launched to the station in 2010 to house the life-support equipment necessary for the permanent station crew of six. It accommodates the Cupola, a seven-window, dome-shaped observation module which gives the crew an unparalleled, panoramic view of space.

Other Resources

MISSE-3 Passive Experiment Container, or PEC.Space Station Science
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International Space StationInternational Space Station
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EXPRESS RacksEXPRESS Racks
The EXPRESS Rack is a standardized payload rack system that transports, stores and supports experiments aboard the International Space Station.
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Multi Purpose Logistics ModuleMulti Purpose Logistics Modules
MPLMs are pressurized modules that serve as the International Space Station's "moving vans," carrying equipment, experiments and supplies to and from the station aboard the space shuttle.
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Page Last Updated: September 30th, 2013
Page Editor: Brooke Boen