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Technical Paper

Growth of Super-Dwarf Wheat on the Russian Space Station MIR

During 1995, we tested instruments and attempted a seed-to-seed experiment with Super-Dwarf wheat in the Russian Space Station Mir. Utah instrumentation included four IR gas analyzers (CO2 and H2O vapor, calculate photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration) and sensors for air and leaf (IR) temperatures, O2, pressure, and substrate moisture (16 probes). Shortly after planting on August 14, three of six fluorescent lamp sets failed; another failed later. Plastic bags, necessary to measure gas exchange, were removed. Hence, gases were measured only in the cabin atmosphere. Other failures led to manual watering, control of lights, and data transmission. The 57 plants were sampled five times plus final harvest at 90 d. Samples and some equipment (including hard drives) were returned to earth on STS-74 (Nov. 20). Plants were disoriented and completely vegetative. Maintaining substrate moisture was challenging, but the moisture probes functioned well.
Technical Paper

Pyrolysis of Mixed Solid Food, Paper, and Packaging Wastes

Pyrolysis is a very versatile waste processing technology which can be tailored to produce a variety of solid, liquid and/or gaseous products. The pyrolysis processing of pure and mixed solid waste streams has been under investigation for several decades for terrestrial use and a few commercial units have been built for niche applications. Pyrolysis has more recently been considered for the processing of mixed solid wastes in space. While pyrolysis units can easily handle mixed solid waste streams, the dependence of the pyrolysis product distribution on the component composition is not well known. It is often assumed that the waste components (e.g., food, paper, plastic) behave independently, but this is a generalization that can usually only be applied to the overall weight loss and not always to the yields of individual gas species.
Technical Paper

Compaction and Drying in a Low-Volume, Deployable Commode

We present a device for collecting and storing feces in microgravity that is user-friendly yet suitable for spacecraft in which cabin volume and mass are constrained. On Apollo missions, the commode function was served using disposable plastic bags, which proved time-consuming and caused odor problems. On Skylab, the space shuttle, and the International Space Station, toilets have used airflow beneath a seat to control odors and collect feces. We propose to incorporate airflow into a system of self-compacting, self-drying collection and stowage bags, providing the benefits of previous commodes while minimizing mass and volume. Each collection bag consists of an inner layer of hydrophobic membrane that is permeable to air but not liquid or solid waste, an outer layer of impermeable plastic, and a collapsible spacer separating the inner and outer layers. Filled bags are connected to space vacuum, compacting and drying their contents.
Technical Paper

Plastic Waste Processing and Volume Reduction for Resource Recovery and Storage in Space

This paper describes work that has begun at Ames Research Center on development of a heat melt compactor that can be used on near term and future missions. The heat melt compactor can handle wastes with a significant plastic composition and minimize crew interaction. The current solid waste management system employed on the International Space Station (ISS) consists of compaction, storage, and disposal. Wastes such as plastic food packaging and trash are compacted manually and wrapped in duct taped “footballs” by the astronauts. Much of the waste is simply loaded into the empty Russian Progress spacecraft that is used to bring supplies to ISS. The progress spacecraft and its contents are intentionally burned up in the earth's atmosphere during reentry. This manual method of trash management on ISS is a wasteful use of crew time and does not transition well to far term missions.
Journal Article

Testing of a Plastic Melt Waste Compactor Designed for Human Space Exploration Missions

Significant progress has been made at NASA Ames Research Center in the development of a heat melt compaction device called the Plastic Melt Waste Compactor (PMWC). The PMWC was designed to process wet and dry wastes generated on human space exploration missions. The wastes have a plastic content typically greater than twenty percent. The PMWC removes the water from the waste, reduces the volume, and encapsulates it by melting the plastic constituent of the waste. The PMWC is capable of large volume reductions. The final product is compacted waste disk that is easy to manage and requires minimal crew handling. This paper describes the results of tests conducted using the PMWC with a wet and dry waste composite that was representative of the waste types expected to be encountered on long duration human space exploration missions.