NASA sent upgraded life support hardware to the International Space Station (ISS) on board of the resupply mission delivered by SpaceX on March 9th, under a contract with the American aeronautics space agency.
Enhancing life support with dependable systems will help permit human exploration to the Moon and Mars. Adding to the experience gained at the space station throughout the last 20 years, NASA plans to land the first woman and man on the Moon by 2024 via its Artemis program, as well as prepare humanity to extend into the Solar System.
Recycling Water is a Must in Space
The orbiting lab’s water recovery system offers clean water by converting wastewater. The upgraded urine distillation assembly, which simmers astronauts’ urine to begin purification, will be installed into the station’s urine processor system and tested to make sure the hardware works.
The recovered water has to be severely pure as per the given standards before it can be used by the crew, on spacewalks, or payload activities. Water generated by the urine processor is mixed with all other wastewaters and sent to the water processor for conversion. The water processor then transports the water through various filtering materials and chemical reactions for purification.
The water purity is verified by electrical sensors in the systems, and unsuitable water is reprocessed until it reaches the purity standards. Clean water is then sent to a storage tank to be used by the crew.
“One of the most important things we’ve learned in the last 12 years of the hardware’s orbital operation is that the hardware is vulnerable in its steam environment,” said Jennifer Pruitt, Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) urine processor assembly project manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “We took those lessons learned and upgraded our urine distillation assembly to create a more reliable system equipped to travel to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”
Enabling Humans to Travel to Deep Space
These upgrades concentrate on inner redesigns, such as a new toothed belt drive system, bearing seals, Teflon spacer, and liquid level sensor, all of which will help in managing the hardware’s steam and fluid conditions to offer the crew with the cleanest water possible.
The ECLSS team has updated the elements of the space station’s water recovery array during the last two years. To lower prices and manage size obliges, Marshall’s ECLSS team decided to come up with a solving for a known issue and enhance the system’s dependability without completely replacing the elements.
The team completed the new hardware build in two months before the scheduled date and sent it to the ISS on an early resupply mission for a technology demo.
“This team sees the importance of the project for Marshall, the space station, the astronauts, and for furthering deep space exploration,” Pruitt said. “They embody what I love about working here: taking pride in your work, really caring about something and making it happen.”
Deep space expeditions in the future will depend heavily on the effective use of resources. The massive distances traveled, and the restricted space on the vehicles will also restrict the water supply. Marshall and other NASA field facilities will keep on working to create regenerative life support hardware to optimize recycling water and oxygen to support life and enable humans to travel deeper into space than before.