Feeds

NASA readies remodeled ISS ENose

Smells like Endeavour team spirit

Application security programs and practises

NASA astronauts aboard Endeavour's STS-126 mission will soon be testing the space agency's latest generation of "electronic nose," designed to monitor the International Space Station's crew cabin for harmful chemicals.

As a humanitarian - or rather, robotarian gesture - we hope they'll install the experimental "ENose" away from the ISS's new urine recycler.

Air quality issues have troubled both the ISS and Russia's former space station Mir. But because the human olfactory system can't detect many substances until they are already at a hazardous level, in most cases the chemicals were identified only after the crew was thoroughly exposed.

The ENose: quite a schnoz

After the shoebox-sized ENose is unpacked in December for a six month demonstration, it will continuously monitor and quantify leaks and spills from chemicals such as ammonia, mercury, methanol and formaldehyde.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built and manages the device, explained that it contains an array of 32 sensors to "sniff" out organic and inorganic chemicals. The sensors are composed of polymer films that change their electrical conductivity in response to different chemicals present in the air. The unit fits into the ISS Express Rack, which will transfer data to a support team on Earth.

"This ENose is a very capable instrument that will increase crew awareness of the state of their air quality," Carl Walz, astronaut and director of NASA's Advanced Capabilities Division, said in a statement.

"Having experienced an air-quality issue during my Expedition 4 mission on the space station, I wish I had information that this ENose will provide future crews. This technology demonstration will provide important information for environmental control and life-support system designers for the future lunar outpost."

This mission is too important for me to allow you to smell it, Dave.

The ENose is expected to be able to alert ISS astronauts if there are any air-contaminating chemicals on its "watch list." If a toxic leak occurs, the crew can wear breathing apparatuses until the ENose detects the space station's air-filtration system has returned the cabin's air to a safe condition.

The ENose presently orbiting Earth is the third generation of the device. The first Enose flew with John Glenn on the STS-95 shuttle mission in 1998. Version 1.0 could only detect 10 compounds and lacked the capability to analyze the data immediately.

That important feature was added to the second generation of ENose, which was extensively ground-tested but never made it outside the atmosphere.

The third version of the ENose is theoretically capable of detecting several thousand types of chemicals, although it's currently being focused on 10 substances. The ultimate goal is to detect between 20 and 30 substances, in mixtures of up to three at a time. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.