SpaceX has fixed its space toilet on Dragon for NASA's Crew-3 astronaut launch

NASA's Kennedy Space Center has unveiled the brand new Crew Dragon capsule Endurance, in preparation for the Crew-3 launch to International Space Station on October 31, 2021.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will be testing some new toilet technology when it lifts off this weekend.

The crew of four astronauts named the spacecraft Endurance. It is due to launch on Sunday morning (Oct. 31,) and kick off SpaceX's Crew-3 mission, which will take it to the International Space Station.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules, Endurance and Crew Dragon 2, differ in one important way. It has a new toilet system to prevent any urine from leaking into space.

Live updates: SpaceX's Crew-3 mission for NASA to the space station

These leaks were discovered on the latest Crew Dragon flight, Inspiration4 which was sent by billionaire Jared Isaacman, and three private citizens, to Earth orbit last month aboard Resilience. Inspections after landing revealed that the tube connecting to the toilet storage tank had burst during the three-day flight.

After Crew-3's flight readiness assessment (FRR), concluded, Bill Gerstenmaier, Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability at SpaceX, stated that the unattached tube allowed urine to "not go into the storage container but, essentially to go into the fan systems."

SpaceX and NASA were both intrigued by the revelation and wondered if the Crew-2 mission had experienced a similar problem. The Crew-2 mission arrived at the station in April. It is expected to conclude next week. Gerstenmaier stated that astronauts from the orbiting laboratory checked Endeavour, the Crew Dragon used to carry Crew-2, and discovered urine leakage.

Thomas Pesquet, an astronaut from the European Space Agency, shared this photo of Crew Dragon's toilet via Twitter when he flew to the International Space Station aboard the Endeavour Dragon in April 2021. (Image credit: Thomas Pesquet)

The leaks aren't a big deal. Two crew members who flew on those capsules didn’t notice the leaks during their flight. Gerstenmaier stated that analyses indicate that Endeavour did not suffer corrosion damage that could have impeded its return to Earth. However, this conclusion needs more investigation here on Earth.

SpaceX did take precautionary measures to prevent urine leakage from occurring on its next astronaut flight.

Gerstenmaier stated that Crew-3 has a solution to the tank's problem by creating an all-welded structure without any joints.

NASA is still reviewing the change, but approval appears likely.

Joel Montalbano (NASA's ISS program manager) stated that "We had a positive review today" during Monday's postFRR news conference. "There weren't any surprises today. Everyone came in today having understood the mission and the work required to achieve it.

SpaceX has a NASA multibillion-dollar contract to transport agency astronauts to the station using Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 rocket. Crew-3, as the name implies, will be the third SpaceX operational mission. In the summer 2020, the company launched Demo-2, a two-month crewed test mission to the orbiting laboratory.

Boeing has a similar contract with NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Although the aerospace giant has yet to fly astronauts, its Starliner capsule must first pass an uncrewed test flight into space. Starliner tried its hand at the mission in December 2019, but it encountered some problems and ended up in an incorrect orbit. Boeing is preparing for attempt number two in 2022's first half.


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