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Space Station Tests New Oxygen Generating System To Sustain Bigger Crew

By | July 23, 2007

      The International Space Station (ISS) tested a new U.S. oxygen generating system capable of supporting a larger ISS crew, NASA announced.

      That system, tested between July 11 and 14, will accommodate a planned ISS crew size increase in 2009.

      The new hardware is part of the station’s environmental control and life support system and will be used to augment the Russian Elektron oxygen generator.

      Elektron experienced difficulties recently when it began leaking potassium hydroxide, forcing the crew to make a quick cleanup.

      With the increased capability to produce oxygen, the station can better support six crew members as they work and live aboard the outpost. The station currently supports a three-person crew.

      During normal operations, the new system will generate about 12 pounds of oxygen per day, enough for six people. However, it can provide as much as 20 pounds of oxygen per day, enough for as many as 11 people.

      It is designed to replace oxygen consumed through breathing or lost during experiment use and airlock depressurization. During last week’s test, which started Wednesday and ended Saturday, the system generated approximately 10 pounds of oxygen.

      Currently, oxygen on the station comes from four sources: the Russian-built Elektron, Russian supply vehicles, storage tanks in the U.S. Quest airlock and solid fuel oxygen generators called candles.

      The new oxygen generation system in the U.S. Destiny laboratory 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 to be installed on the space station in 2008. Periodically, NASA will activate and operate the new oxygen generator to ensure the system remains ready for its integration with the water recovery system.

      The two new systems were to be included in the space station’s Node 3 module, targeted for launch in 2010. However, mission managers decided to launch them earlier as part of a strategy to increase the station’s crew to six people in 2009.

      The oxygen generation system was designed and tested at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and Hamilton Sundstrand Space Systems International in Windsor Locks, Conn.

      The Boeing Co. [BA] of Chicago provided laboratory integration, including the development of mechanical equipment, electrical equipment and computer software.