Feeds

Calcitic astro-whiz clogs ISS piss recycler

Yesterday's coffee, today's problem

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The mysterious properties of astronaut piss are believed to be the cause of the International Space Station's extremely troublesome deployment of its $250 million urine-recycling system.

Engineers attempting to troubleshoot the buggy barrel-shaped Urine Processor Assembly aboard the ISS now suspect that a high concentration of calcium found in astro-waste is responsible for clogging the machine, reports Reuters.

The re-wee system, which converts yesterday's coffee into tomorrow's Tang, has been on the fritz aboard the orbiting outpost since was first delivered back in November 2008. Yet before it left terra firma, the system was fully tested at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

"We've learned a lot more about urine than we ever needed or wanted to know - some of us anyway," station flight director David Korth told the news agency.

But scientists aren't sure if the amounts of calcium are due to bone loss resulting from microgravity or other unknown factors. Past research has indicated that spending extended time in space will cause a loss in bone density.

Program scientist Julie Robinson said the chemistry changes that occur as the urine works through the processor "are not always understood." (Probably not good news for those drinking and showering in the end result.) "There are a lot of parameters including urine calcium and pH that everyone is looking at," she added.

Until then, samples of urine are being collected and stored in the ISS's Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer for later analysis back on Earth.

The piss-recycling machine gave a clue of things to come when it was first fired up aboard the ISS in November 2008, causing the station's fire alarm to trigger. Since that day, technical snags have bedeviled the system off and on, and forced astronauts to work overtime to earn their golden showers.

Engineers hope to find a fix in time to send up replacement parts for the launch of space shuttle Endeavour's STS-130 mission planned for February 12. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
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.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.