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- A spacecraft is the ultimate tight building. We don t want any leaks, and there is very little fresh air coming in, says Jay Perry, an aerospace engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center. As a result, there is a huge potential for a buildup of contaminants from a host of sources. Inside a spacecraft, contaminants can be introduced from the materials that make spacecraft components, electronics boxes, or activities by the crew such as food preparation or cleaning. Humans also generate contaminants by breathing and through the body s natural metabolic processes. As part of the sophisticated Environmental Control and Life Support System on the International Space Station (ISS), a trace contaminant control system removes carbon dioxide and other impurities from the cabin atmosphere. To maintain healthy levels, the system uses adsorbent media to filter chemical contaminant molecules and a high-temperature catalytic oxidizer to change the chemical structure of the contaminants to something more benign, usually carbon dioxide and water. In the 1990s, while researching air quality control technology for extended spaceflight travel, Perry and others at Marshall were looking for a regenerable process for the continuous removal of carbon dioxide and trace chemical contaminants on long-duration manned space flights. At the time, the existing technology used on U.S. spacecraft could only be used once, which meant that a spacecraft had to carry additional spare parts for use in case the first one was depleted, or the spacecraft would have to return to Earth to exchange the components.
- Other Subject(s):
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20120001899.
Spinoff 2011; 128-129; NASA/NP-2011-11-780-HQ.
- No Copyright.
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