NASA has successfully tested a new waste disposal technology aboard the International Space Station (ISS) developed by Texas-based waste management company Nanoracks.
The test demonstrated a more efficient and sustainable model for removing debris from the ISS and could prove a key new utility for all future space stations.
“Normally, International Space Station astronauts collect garbage and store it on the space station for months while waiting for the Cygnus cargo vehicle to arrive at the station.”
Normally, ISS astronauts collect garbage and store it on the space station for months while waiting for the Cygnus cargo vehicle to arrive at the station. Cygnus is a disposable spacecraft designed to transport supplies to the space station. After it completes its primary mission, astronauts stuff it into bags of trash and release the spacecraft. After that, it leaves orbit and burns up completely on re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
The new concept developed by Nanopracks uses a specially designed waste container mounted in the Bishop Airlock. Crew members can fill it with around 270 kilograms of waste. After that, the canister is released and, like the Cygnus process, burns completely upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The idea is that this method is more efficient and sustainable because the astronauts don’t have to wait for the cargo spacecraft to arrive to dispose of the waste.
During the successful first test, the container contained around 78 kilograms of rubbish, including foam, packing materials, cargo transfer bags, soiled crew clothing, hygiene products and used office supplies.
This successful test not only demonstrates the future of waste disposal for space stations, but also underscores our ability to use the ISS as a commercial technology testbed, providing critical insights in preparation for the next phases of commercial LEO targets. Thank you to NASA and the ISS program for their continued support, and we look forward to continuing this collaboration, said Amela Wilson, CEO of Nanoracks, in a company press statement. Debris collection in space is a longstanding, but not as publicly debated, challenge aboard the ISS. Four astronauts can generate up to 2,500 kg of garbage per year, or about two garbage cans per week. As we move into a time when more people live and work in space, this is a crucial feature, just as it is for everyone at home, Cooper Read, Bishop Airlock Program Manager at Nanoracks, added in the press release.
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