Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



STATION NEWS
Space Station offers valuable lessons about life support systems
by Staff Writers
Huntsville AL (SPX) Nov 04, 2015


NASA astronaut Leland Melvin removed this early model of the Distillation Assembly from the Water Recovery System on the International Space Station during his flight on the space shuttle Atlantis for mission STS-129 in November 2009. Image courtesy NASA. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Wherever humans explore, they must essentially replicate the life support system provided naturally on Earth. People living on the International Space Station continuously for the last 15 years are helping NASA learn how to create life support systems for the journey to Mars.

"This has been a challenge from the start," said Rex Graves, chief of the Flight Systems Integration and Test Branch at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "We pulled together a great team here at Marshall to look at ways to recover water and oxygen on orbit to reduce the need for resupply missions to the space station. Now more than 200 crewmembers have lived on the station continuously for 15 years, and this has taught us not only about the hardware but also about how people living in space affect the life support system's operations."

The Environmental Control and Life Support System, or ECLSS, built for the station is serving as the basis for a similar system that may one day enable astronauts to drink water on the surface of Mars. One of the most valuable lessons learned is that recycling makes spaceflight more affordable. When the first life support system was developed, one of the key aspects designers considered was how to reuse all the water produced on the station-even human urine and sweat.

As anyone knows who has ever hauled gallon jugs of water on a camping trip, carrying enough water for all 220 crew members who have lived on the station for the past 15 years would mean transporting a lot of water to space. Since the activation of the ECLSS urine processor assembly in November 2008, more than 22,500 pounds of drinkable water have been recycled from crew members' urine.

"If this amount of water had been resupplied from Earth, it would have cost more than $225 million to launch and deliver it to the station." said Walt Schneider, project manager for the Life Support Project for Marshall's Flight Programs and Partnerships Office. "This part of the life support system paid for itself pretty quickly."

Another way NASA engineers are finding out what does and doesn't work is to bring hardware back from the station, study it and refine it. The part of the station's water recovery system that helps process urine, the distillation assembly, was recently returned to its designers at Marshall after the station crew replaced it.

Before its return to Earth, the part helped provide the station with water by operating successfully for 1,014 hours beyond its expected service time of 4,380 hours - a feat with implications for further human exploration of our solar system where hardware must perform reliably for a long time under harsh conditions.

"Without air or water, humans simply can't travel, live or work in space," said Schneider. "Our team at Marshall is responsible for the design, construction and testing of the regenerative life support hardware, exploring new designs and getting new parts to the station and improving the efficiency of the system that provides clean air and water for crew members."

The Water Recovery System's distillation assembly helps transform urine from crew members into usable water. When versions of the hardware were first installed nearly seven years ago, engineers noticed it wasn't working as well as intended.

"We had some initial issues with calcium deposits," said Larry Leopard, director of the Space Systems Department at Marshall. "We have since learned on the space station that astronauts suffer more bone loss than anticipated in a microgravity environment, and a lot of that calcium from bones ends up in their urine. The distillation assembly was having trouble filtering the extra calcium, and we had to change machines more frequently than anticipated."

The calcium deposits meant the amount of water recovered from urine was reduced. While the crew was never in any danger, and the water recovery system still recovered 75 percent of the wastewater from urine, the team wanted it to be even more efficient.

A new and improved distillation assembly - a cylindrical machine about the size of a kitchen garbage can - was delivered and installed in February 2010. An upcoming change in the pre-treatment chemicals will help prevent the calcium-related problems and allow a return to climb as high as a 85 percent recovery rate in 2016.

"The new distillation assembly performed exactly as we intended," said Graves.

"We had an expected life cycle of 4,380 hours. When it reached that, it showed no signs of a decline in performance, so we let it continue doing its job. The assembly finally started showing subtle signs of wear in April 2015 after 5,394 hours of operation, so the crew changed it out with the replacement assembly, and the used one was returned to us at Marshall for examination."

The success of the hardware has a direct effect on NASA's eventual mission to Mars. The ECLSS team is using information learned from this experience to improve the design and the overall chemical process, creating new hardware that is easier to get into space and uses less electricity.

"Several team members are finishing new designs for other fluid pumps on orbit now," said Leopard. "We are also looking at concept studies for advanced ECLSS systems that could be smaller and more efficient for deep space and the long journey to Mars."

The ECLSS team is celebrating the homecoming of the assembly by tearing it apart - disassembling it to learn what specific components wore out, what designs can be reused in the next version and maybe get even more time out of the machinery.

The space station's life support system also benefits people on Earth by contributing to water purification systems used around the world.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
Environmental Control and Life Support System at ISS
Station at NASA
Station and More at Roscosmos
S.P. Korolev RSC Energia
Watch NASA TV via Space.TV
Space Station News at Space-Travel.Com






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
STATION NEWS
Space station marks 15 years inhabited by astronauts
Kennedy Space Center FL (AFP) Nov 02, 2015
Astronauts celebrated 15 years of circling the Earth aboard the International Space Station Monday, a new milestone for an orbiting space lab that some say deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. With operations expected to last another decade, the world's space agencies are now looking to the outpost to provide key data on how future space pioneers may withstand the rigors of venturing further, p ... read more


STATION NEWS
All-female Russian crew starts Moon mission test

Russian moon mission would need 4 Angara-A5V launches

Study reveals origin of organic matter in Apollo lunar samples

Russia touts plan to land a man on the Moon by 2029

STATION NEWS
Signs of Acid Fog Found on Mars

NASA Chief: We're Closer to Sending Humans on Mars Than Ever Before

Rewrite of Onboard Memory Planned for NASA Mars Orbiter

Martian skywatchers provide insight on atmosphere, protect orbiting hardware

STATION NEWS
NASA Armstrong Hosts Convergent Aeronautics Solutions Showcase

Got the right stuff? NASA is hiring astronauts

Studying Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Scientifically with UFODATA

Faster optimization

STATION NEWS
China's self-developed Mars probe to be on show

Could Sino-U.S. cooperation bring the Martian home?

China's scientific satellites to enter uncharted territory

Declaration approved to promote Asia Pacific space cooperation

STATION NEWS
Space Station offers valuable lessons about life support systems

Space station marks 15 years inhabited by astronauts

Space Station Investigation Goes With the Flow

NASA astronauts get workout in marathon spacewalk

STATION NEWS
Russian Space Agency signs contracts for 31 commercial launches in 2015

Russia to refurbish satan missiles as cheaper launchers

Full-Scale Drills at Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome to Start in Two Weeks

Developing Commercial Spaceports in the USA

STATION NEWS
Distant world's weather is mixed bag of hot dust and molten rain

Disk gaps don't always signal planets

Finding New Worlds with a Play of Light and Shadow

Did Jupiter Expel A Rival Gas Giant

STATION NEWS
NUS scientists developed super sensitive magnetic sensor

Chipping away at the secrets of ice formation

Robotic Eyes to Assist Satellite Repairs in Orbit

Space Junk




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement