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Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC

Steve Roy
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.  January 28, 
(Phone: 256/544-0034)

Dolores Beasley
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

RELEASE: 03-021


     In a remote, hostile, totally alien environment, every 
life-sustaining resource is precious. In space, other than 
air, none is more precious than water.

Improving the careful use of that critical resource is the 
goal of the Vapor Compression Distillation Flight 
Experiment, which is undergoing tests during the STS-107 
Space Shuttle mission launched January 16.

The experiment, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight 
Center in Huntsville, Ala., is a full-scale demonstration of 
technology being developed to convert crewmember urine and 
wastewater aboard the International Space Station into clean 
water for drinking, cooking and hygiene. Based on results of 
the experiment, an operational urine processor could be 
installed aboard the Station in the future, thus reducing 
the amount of water that must be re-supplied from Earth.

"We operated successfully on Saturday, Sunday and Monday 
(Jan.18-20)" said Cindy Hutchens, manager of the Vapor 
Compression Distillation Flight Experiment. "Our data look 
very similar to that on the ground, so we feel very 
confident about our hardware. Mission Specialist Laurel 
Clark described our processed water samples as clear, which 
is very good. On Sunday, we did a test to see how it would 
start up if it lost power, and that appears to be 
successful. We're looking forward to getting back our 
samples and the recorded data for analysis," she said.

Aboard the Space Station, each of the three crewmembers is 
allocated just 4.4 gallons of water per day. By comparison, 
the average American uses 60 gallons per day on Earth. Not 
only is it costly to carry water into space aboard the Space 
Shuttle and Russian Progress spacecraft, but also cargo 
space is already much in demand for carrying up food, 
clothing, equipment and scientific experiments. NASA is 
working to collect and recycle as much water as possible to 
save space and reduce costs.

"The water recovery system on the Space Station will be 
similar to a water treatment plant on Earth. The process has 
to be different on the Station in order to operate in the 
weightlessness of space and to fit in the area of about two 
phone booths," Hutchens said.

The experiment is part of a NASA effort to reduce technical 
risk between the design of flight hardware and actual 
installation aboard the Space Station, Hutchens said. The 
vapor compression distillation process mechanically mimics 
Earth's natural process of evaporation. Instead of heating 
water with the power of the sun, however, these systems boil 
wastewater to produce and collect water vapor that is 97 
percent free of minerals, chemicals and microbes.
The experiment is designed to verify the recycling concept 
in microgravity, the low-gravity environment created as a 
spacecraft orbits the Earth. For the experiment, de-ionized 
water containing some salts was used instead of urine.

The experiment occupies a refrigerator-sized rack in the 
SPACE HAB module in the Shuttle payload bay for the STS-107 
mission. Experiments will test the system under a series of 
normal and abnormal operating scenarios. The Shuttle crew 
activated the experiment, but it is primarily automated. The 
experiment team monitors operations and receives data in a 
control room at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Part of the Station's water processing system was tested on 
a KC-135 aircraft in 2002 that simulates microgravity 

"When this technology is installed aboard the Space Station, 
it will be able to process about 4,400 pounds (2,000 kg) of 
waste water annually to support the crew, and decrease the 
water requirements on resupply missions," Hutchens said. 
"Beyond that, further human exploration of space will 
require water recycling technology. And it may even have 
applications on Earth, where many people don't have ready 
access to a clean water supply," she said.

For more information about the STS-107 mission:



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