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SpaceX has been forced to conduct repairs on the toilets in its capsules after a loose tube spilled urine onto fans and beneath the floor.
The toilet began to malfunction while the first all-civilian crew were on board SpaceX’s Inspiration4 craft for a three-day flight last month.
William Gerstenmaier, a SpaceX vice-president who used to work for NASA, explained the issues stemmed from a tube that came unglued during the flight, leaking urine.
Speaking to reporters on Monday ahead of the planned departure of a capsule from the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, October 31, Gerstenmaier said the same problem had recently been discovered inside the Dragon capsule that carried crew to the space station, though less urine had pooled beneath the floor panels in the latter instance as the crew had only spent a day living on the capsule.
Gerstenmaier said the team and crew ‘didn’t really even notice’ the issue on board Inspiration4 until it had returned to Earth, saying, ‘When we got the vehicle back, we looked under the floor and saw the fact that there was contamination underneath the floor of Inspiration4.’
Urine in space is mixed with a corrosive compound oxone to eliminate ammonia, though Gerstenmaier noted that ‘luckily, or, on purpose, [SpaceX] chose an aluminium alloy that is very insensitive to corrosion’.
The vice president said SpaceX has fixed the issue ‘by essentially making it an all-welded structure, with no longer a joint in there that can come unglued and become disconnected’. NASA is currently reviewing the fix to ensure the launch from the from the Kennedy Space Center will not be compromised, The Guardian reports.
SpaceX is currently conducting tests to ensure the spilled liquid has not damaged the Dragon capsule currently in orbit, as structural damage could endanger the astronauts when they return to Earth. The final tests should be completed later this week, according to Gerstenmaier.
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