Home Improvement

The Challenges of Plumbing in Space

The International space station is a huge technological achievement that allows human beings to live and work outside of the atmosphere of Earth for long periods of time (a typical mission to the space station is for around six months). However, due to the fact that the space station is located in such a hostile environment, the engineering challenges that were faced by the designers were much greater than those that we have on Earth.

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One of the things that are essential to keeping our homes clean and hygienic on Earth is the plumbing. It provides us with clean water and heating. However, on Earth we rely on a network of copper pipe like this https://watkinspowis.co.uk/products/copper-pipe-fittings-and-press-systems/ to provide us with what we need. On the ISS the materials are going to be tested to their limits. It is also not possible to simply phone a plumber to come out, so it is important that the systems work well! As well as the extreme temperatures that are experienced in space, the fact that there is no gravity also affects how the plumbing will work. The typical materials that are used for the plumbing on the space station include Teflon and titanium.

Due to the lack of gravity, fluids need to be pushed in a certain direction. Whereas on Earth, you can get gravity to do a lot of the work for you, this is not the case in space. Therefore, the plumbing network needs to include special pumps to move the liquid around to where it should be. Otherwise, it would just float around of its own accord and the system would quickly break.

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One of the most commonly asked questions about life in space is how you go to the toilet. Again, this is different to how you do it on Earth due to the lack of gravity. It is also something that needs to be done correctly to prevent disease from  spreading – in space, waste wouldn’t stay sitting in a toilet, so the whole process needs to be different. There are two separate devices that help astronauts go to the toilet in space and then use a suction device to ensure that waste is carried away safely from the people in there.

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