The Space Station provides a unique facility for conducting material processing and life science experiments under microgravity conditions. These conditions place special requirements on the U.S. Laboratory for storing and transporting chemicals and process fluids, reclaiming water from selected experiments, treating and storing experiment wastes, and providing vacuum utilities. To meet these needs and provide a safe laboratory environment, the Process Material Management System (PMMS) is being developed. Preliminary design requirements and concepts related to the PMMS are addressed in addition to discussing the MSFC PMMS breadboard test facility and a preliminary plan for validating the overall system design.
The system contains a fluid handling subsystem which manages process fluids required by each experiment while a chemical storage facility safely stores potentially hazardous chemicals. Several experiments will have water reclaimed from their wastes to reduce resupply requirements. The water will be extracted, purified, and stored in the ultrapure water system which also provides high purity water to experiments which require it. A major function of the PMMS is to safely collect, treat, and store waste effluents from the experiments. Some of these effluents contain hazardous chemicals which present a challenge to designing and selecting hardware and treatment techniques. A vacuum utility is provided by the vacuum vent subsystem. This subsystem serves as a vent for residual process gases as well as an emergency vent for handling any emergency pressure relief situations. The subsystem also provides a high quality vacuum for experiments requiring low pressures. Together, these subsystems provide a safe environment for conducting microgravity science.