Trouble with the toilet aboard the Crew Dragon capsule from SpaceX It would leave a group of four astronauts without a bathroom option.
On the return flight from the International Space Station this month, crew members will have to wear “underwear” to get around the problem, Steve Stitch, the company’s Commercial Crew program manager, told reporters Friday. NASA.
SpaceX first discovered a problem in its spacecraft bathroom last month while examining a different Crew Dragon capsule than the one normally used.
The company realized that the tube used to route urine into a storage tank had peeled off, leaving a filthy puddle hidden under the capsule floor. It was a discovery that affected the three spacecraft operated by the company.
NASA has not said how long the four astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough, Megan MacArthur, French ESA astronaut Thomas Bisquet, and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshied — will have to stay aboard the four-meter-wide Crew Dragon capsule, with its non-removable bathroom. to run. .
So far, only two Crew Dragon spacecraft have returned from the International Space Station with people on board – the first return flight took 19 hours, and the second one took only six hours.
Flight duration depends on several factors, including orbital dynamics and weather. Stitch added: “We are always working to reduce the time from docking the space station to landing, and this is what we will do with this flight.”
The problem arose in the Crew Dragon bathroom during SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission in September, which carried four people on only the first cruise mission into orbit, which lasted three days.
Jared Isakman, Mission Leader and Funder, Inspiration4, as it has been called, told CNN Business Last month, an alarm went off during the mission, alerting the crew to a malfunctioning bathroom fan.
According to his account, he and his fellow travelers had to work with SpaceX consoles on the ground to temporarily solve the problem.
The accident did not cause any serious problems for the Inspiration4 mission team, and there were no body fluids leaking inside the capsule. But after the Inspiration4 crew returns to Earth, SpaceX dismantles their spacecraft to see what could go wrong.
“A tube was disconnected from the urine storage tank,” said William Gerstenmaier, a former NASA administrator who now serves as SpaceX’s chief mission assurance officer. The urine is thus diverted to the ventilation system instead of going to the tank.
Such vulnerabilities can arise even after the spacecraft has performed all necessary test flights, been examined and approved, and even completed missions.
Propellers are used in spacecraft bathrooms to create suction and control the flow of urine because, in the microgravity environment of space, waste can (and does not) go in all possible directions.
In the special case, the Inspiration4 crew didn’t notice any feces floating around the cabin because the leak was still going down into the fenced areas underground, Gerstenmaier said.
SpaceX is working to clean up and fix the problem with the Inspiration4 spacecraft, called Resilience.
A new Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Endurance and scheduled to carry four more astronauts to the International Space Station on Wednesday (3), will launch with the enhanced seal system.
The four returning astronauts have been aboard the International Space Station since April. During this period, the Crew Dragon Endeavor capsule remained attached to the International Space Station, serving as a lifeboat ready to take them home.
When astronauts recently inspected the capsule, they discovered a leak in the toilet and evidence of urine on the walls. But since they’re still in space, they won’t be able to fix the problem right away.
Since the space station has its own bathrooms, the capsule problem will only be a nuisance on the return flight (which could happen later this weekend, according to NASA), when they have to rely on the temporary clothing option. .
Although the spacecraft is less comfortable, it will not compromise its safety on the return trip. SpaceX conducted a series of ground tests to ensure that the Crew Dragon’s aluminum frame could retain leaked urine and that the material did not become dangerously corrosive.
To do this, SpaceX researchers soaked a few pieces of metal in urine mixed with oxon (the same substance used to remove ammonia from urine aboard the Crew Dragon) and found only limited corrosion on contact with aluminum, Gerstenmaier said.
“We’re going to triple-check everything,” he said last week, “and we’ve got a few more samples that we’ll take out of the rooms and check.” “But we will be ready to go and make sure the crew is safe to return.”
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