Nanoracks takes out the ISS trash in orbital reentry bags
Nanoracks, in conjunction with NASA's Johnson Space Center, has successfully expelled 172 lb (78 kg) of trash from the International Space Station (ISS) in a high-tech bin liner that was ejected using the station's Bishop Airlock on June 2 to then burn up in the atmosphere.
Being on the ISS is a bit like living in an apartment with really bad trash collection, which is a problem when four astronauts can produce about 5,500 lb (2,500 kg) of waste per year. Currently, refuse on the station is bagged up and stowed away until an uncrewed Cygnus cargo ship is scheduled to leave. The waste is packed into the hold of the craft, which then burns up safely in the Earth's atmosphere over an empty quarter of the Pacific Ocean.
This is far from a perfect solution and with a number of private space labs scheduled to replace the ISS after it's decommissioned at the end of the decade, a more flexible on-demand system is being developed by Nanoracks for use in the company's Starlab and other platforms.
The new concept is based on Nanoracks' Cubesat Deployer (NRCSD) and SmallSat (Kaber) deployers. It uses a custom container and a waste bag that can hold 600 lb (270 kg) of trash and is expelled from the station. Whether it enters the atmosphere by natural orbital decay or by means of retro-rocket pack is unclear. For the test, the waste consisted of foam and packing materials, cargo transfer bags, dirty crew clothing, assorted hygiene products, and used office supplies.
"This weekend was yet another historic milestone for the Nanoracks team," said Dr. Amela Wilson, Nanoracks CEO. "This was the first open-close cycle of the Bishop Airlock, our first deployment, and what we hope is the beginning of new, more sustainable ISS disposal operations. This successful test not only demonstrates the future of waste removal for space stations, but also highlights our ability to leverage the ISS as a commercial technology testbed, which provides critical insights into how we can prepare for the next phases of commercial LEO destinations. Thank you to NASA and the ISS Program for their continued support, and we look forward to continuing this collaboration."
The video below shows the Nanoracks waste container being ejected.