Browse Publications Technical Papers 2006-01-2157
2006-07-17

Microbial Characterization of Internal Active Thermal Control System (IATCS) Hardware Surfaces after Five Years of Operation in the International Space Station 2006-01-2157

A flex hose assembly containing aqueous coolant from the International Space Station (ISS) Internal Active Thermal Control System (IATCS) consisting of a 2 foot section of Teflon hose and quick disconnects (QDs) and a Special Performance Checkout Unit (SPCU) heat exchanger containing separate channels of IATCS coolant and iodinated water used to cool spacesuits and Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs) were returned for destructive analyses on Shuttle return to flight mission STS-114. The original aqueous IATCS coolant used in Node 1, the Laboratory Module, and the Airlock consisted of water, borate (pH buffer), phosphate (corrosion control), and silver sulfate (microbiological control) at a pH of 9.5 ± 0.5. Chemical changes occurred after on-orbit implementation including a decrease to pH 8.4 due to the diffusion of carbon dioxide through the Teflon hoses, an increase in nickel ions due to general corrosion of heat exchanger braze coatings, a decrease in phosphate concentration due to precipitation of nickel phosphate, and the rapid disappearance of silver ions due to deposition on hardware surfaces. Also associated with the coolant chemistry changes was an increase in planktonic microorganisms from less than 100 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 ml to approximately 1 million CFU per 100 ml. Attachment and growth of microorganisms to the system surfaces (biofilm) was suspected due to the levels of planktonic microorganisms in the coolant. Biofilms can reduce coolant flow, reduce heat transfer, amplify degradation of system materials initiated by chemical corrosion, and enhance mineral scale formation.
Enumerations of microorganisms on hardware surfaces were performed by membrane filtration and spread plating on R2A, 1/10-strength tryptic soy agar, and fluid thioglycollate medium agar incubated for 14 days at 25 - 30°C. Enrichments of viable microorganisms from surfaces of the flex hose and SPCU heat exchanger were performed in R2B (R2A without agar), 1/10-strength tryptic soy broth, and fluid thioglycollate medium. Bacterial colonies isolated from these assays were isolated and identified by several methods.
This initial paper reports the results of the membrane filtration analyses performed to assess biofilm on IATCS hardware exposed to coolant and microorganisms during five years of on-orbit operation.

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