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Resupplies Or How To Get Your Cookie Into Space

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Sat Mar 3, 2007 5:14 pm
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With the Space Shuttle nearing its end of life, the task to resupply the International Space Station ISS comes again into focus. What can be done and what is planned, we will cover in a future part.

Now let’s first look back into history. In the beginnings of crewed spaceflight no or little supplies were needed at all as the flights took several hours at the best. With the increasing flight duration however, the task of getting enough supplies into the small capsules got challenging.

Another severe problem was the waste management. You can pack e.g. a meal on Earth quite small but after your dinner you will have a lot of waste that you won’t be able to get so small in volume as before. Especially the long duration Gemini flights faced that problem.

With the first space stations of the Soviet Union’s Salyut type and the US’ Skylab station, it was obvious that long duration flights of several months wouldn’t be possible without a proper resupply and waste disposal system.

Skylab with its very large volume was able to push flight durations up to 84 days without a resupply system. But this was only possible because the large-volume station was packed up to the roof with supplies, be it food, clothes or replacement parts. Additionally each visiting Apollo crew had their capsule filled with supplies.

But nonetheless at the end of the third Skylab mission more and more equipment failed and had to be turned off. Another major problem was the waste. Despite the usage of the large former LOX tank of the S-IVB that formed Skylab, the third crew had to undertake big efforts to store their waste.

It was the Soviets who first created a resupply system, the venerable Progress craft.

Watch out for the next part covering the history of the Progress.

Feel free to discuss this story in the forum…

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