Station Prepares for Expanding Crew
Expanding kitchen facilities, adding more bedrooms and an extra bathroom all sound like home improvements that many homeowners have tackled. But when the “house” is the International Space Station orbiting 220 miles above Earth, things are a little more complicated than visiting the local home improvement store for materials. Just in time for its 10th anniversary, the space station will get a delivery via space shuttle Endeavour that might win a prize for out-of-this-world home makeover.
When Endeavour and crew lift off on the STS-126 mission for the 27th shuttle flight to the station, it will be packed with supplies like food and clothing for the station crew members. However, Endeavour’s major payload consists of equipment for enlarging the space station’s capacity to accommodate a six-member crew. The high-tech home improvement materials are stowed inside the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo, which will be tucked inside the shuttle’s cargo bay.
Some of the additions aboard will be:
The new galley components include two food warmers, a refrigerator and a water dispenser. The food warmers resemble suitcases and each is capable of heating six rehydratable and six wet food packages simultaneously in about 40 minutes. The water dispenser can provide either heated or unheated potable water for up to three crew members. The refrigerator, measuring just 16.5 inches deep, 10.2 inches wide and 6.7 inches high, can be cooled by either air flow or water flow. The galley will be installed in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module of the station.
The modular crew quarters provide each of the station’s occupants with their own “personal space” that resembles a booth. In their quarters they can stow their personal belongings, rest and spend their recreational time. Each unit provides the crew member with visual, light and acoustic isolation, as well as laptop connectivity. The new crew quarters will be installed in the Harmony node.
Another addition will be new resistance exercise equipment to help the crew perform a variety of exercises. The equipment will make workouts such as bench presses, dead lifts, sit-ups and squats possible in the station’s zero-gravity environment.
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
Contained in another booth-like compartment is the Russian-built toilet system. This provides the crew with a second facility on the station, located in the Destiny lab. The unit separately channels liquid and solid waste. While the solid waste goes to a holding tank, a new pair of processing units that Endeavour delivers on this mission are set to begin a unique recycling program -- turning crew members’ urine into potable water.
Water Recovery System
These unique recycling units, known together as the Water Recovery System, are designed to provide drinking-quality water through the reclamation of wastewater, including urine and hygiene wastes. The water that’s produced will be used to support the crew and work aboard the station.
Also located in Destiny, the system is made up of two major components: One unit first transforms urine into purified water, and the next combines it with crew members’ hygiene wastes and cabin condensation before the final treatment. The system is capable of processing and providing water at a rate of up to 205 pounds per day to support up to seven crew members and station payloads. And while this process might carry a strong “ick” factor for most people, providing sources of life-sustaining water for long-duration space travel is essential.
As all these elements are delivered to the station by Endeavour’s crew, the stage is being set for a full compliment of space station residents to live and work aboard this international orbiting outpost.
Cheryl L. Mansfield
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center