Feeds

NASA readies remodeled ISS ENose

Smells like Endeavour team spirit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.