Browse Publications Technical Papers 2007-01-3186

Strategies to Mitigate Ammonia Release on the International Space Station 2007-01-3186

The management of off-nominal situations on-board the International Space Station (ISS) is crucial to its continuous operation. Off-nominal situations can arise from virtually any aspect of ISS operations. One situation of particular concern is the inadvertent release of a chemical into the ISS atmosphere. In sufficient quantities, a chemical release can render the ISS uninhabitable regardless of the chemical's toxicity as a result of its effect on the hardware used to maintain the environment. This is certainly true with system chemicals which are integral components to the function and purpose of the system. Safeguards, such as design for minimum risk, multiple containment, hazard assessments, rigorous safety reviews, and others, are in place to minimize the probability of a chemical release to the ISS environment thereby allowing the benefits of system chemicals to outweigh the risks associated with them. The thermal control system is an example of such a system. Heat generated within the ISS is transferred from the internal thermal control system (ITCS) to the external thermal control system (ETCS) via two, single-barrier interface heat exchangers (IFHX). The ITCS and ETCS are closed-loop systems which utilize water and anhydrous ammonia, respectively, as heat-transfer fluids. There is approximately 544 kg (1200 lbs) or 787 L (208 gallons) of anhydrous ammonia in the ETCS circulating through the two heat exchangers, transferring heat from the ITCS water lines. At the amounts present in the ETCS, anhydrous ammonia is one system chemical that can easily overwhelm the station atmosphere scrubbing capabilities and render the ISS uninhabitable in the event of a catastrophic rupture. Although safeguards have certainly minimized the risk of an ammonia release into the Station atmosphere, credible release scenarios and controls to manage these scenarios are examined.


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