NASA is preparing to
launch an oxygen generation system to the International Space
Station. The system uses water to generate breathable oxygen for
crew members. Life support systems like this are necessary to
support future long-duration missions to the moon, Mars and
The system was shipped from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center,
Huntsville, Ala., on Jan. 24, and arrived the next day at the
agency's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The system will be installed in
a pressurized cargo compartment later this month for a possible May
launch aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.
"Delivering this hardware to the space station is a major step
toward achieving the full potential of the complex," said Mike
Suffredini, station program manager. "Once complete, the
regenerative life support system will sustain additional crew
members onboard that can conduct more scientific research. It also
will give us experience operating and sustaining a 'closed-loop'
life support system similar to that necessary for future human
spaceflight missions farther from Earth," he added.
The system will also help replace oxygen lost during experiments
and airlock depressurization. Once activated, the oxygen generation
system may daily provide up to 20 pounds of oxygen. During normal
operations, it will provide 12 pounds daily; enough to support six
crew members. The system will tap into the station's water supply
and split the liquid into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The
hydrogen will be pushed into space, leaving the oxygen for the
crew. The system is designed to operate with little monitoring.
"Advancing life-support technology will become increasingly
important as we pursue missions to the moon and Mars," said Bob
Bagdigian, project manager at Marshall's Center for the
Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System.
The oxygen generation system is one of two primary components in
the station's regenerative environmental control and life support
system. The other component, the water recovery system, is planned
for shipment to Kennedy early next year, once testing and design
modifications are completed.
The water system is designed to provide clean water by recycling
wastewater and crew member urine. The recycled water must meet
purity standards before it is used to support crew, payload and
spacewalk activities. The recovery systems will be packaged into
three refrigerator-sized racks for installation in the station's
U.S. Destiny lab module.
The station relies on a combination of expendable and limited
regenerative life support technologies in Destiny and the Russian
Zvezda service module. The advances made in the regenerative
environmental control and life support system will help cut station
operating costs. Less money will be needed to launch fresh supplies
of air, water and expendable life support equipment to the station
and return used equipment to Earth.
The oxygen generation system was designed and tested by Marshall
and Hamilton Sundstrand Space Systems International, Windsor Locks,