Watch ISS Astronauts Discard 172 Pounds Of Space Trash Hurtling It Towards Earth

space trash
Nanoracks Bishop Airlock has provided astronauts a way of disposing of their waste on the International Space Station (ISS), without contributing to more space debris. Astronauts successfully disposed of 172 lbs of waste from ISS on Saturday, July 2, 2022.

As we begin to look at going back to the Moon, and potentially building a lunar base that will serve as a go-between point to Mars, space debris could become a major issue. Add to those missions, the companies, such as Blue Origin, who want to build commercial parks in low-earth-orbit, and the issue could get out of hand rather quickly. Enter Nanoracks and its first-of-its-kind technology to dispose of space waste from ISS.

As of around 7:05 PM Central on Saturday, July 2, Nanoracks successfully cycled its Bishop Airlock aboard the International Space Station and disposed of approximately 172 lbs of waste from the space station. The test, developed and performed in collaboration with NASA's Johnson Space Center, is a step forward in maintaining and ridding ISS and future space stations of its waste in space, including Nanoracks' own future Starlab.

"This weekend was yet another historic milestone for the Nanoracks team. 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," remarked Dr. Amela Wilson, Nanoracks CEO.

According the Nanoracks website, astronauts aboard the ISS currently collect trash and then store it in the space station for months, awaiting the Cygnus cargo vehicle to arrive and eventually take their trash away. Once Cygnus goes about and completes its primary mission, the astronauts aboard ISS fill the spacecraft with the bags of trash they have been collecting before releasing Cygnus from the space station for de-orbit. Once released, the spacecraft burns up upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere.

Nanoracks essentially cuts out the need for a middle man, or Cygnus to be precise, in order to rid the space station of its waste. The concept utilizes a specially designed waste container, which is mounted in the Bishop Airlock. The crew of the ISS can fill up the container with up to 600 lbs of trash. Once the waste bag is full, it is then released and the Airlock is re-mounted empty. The first test bag contained around 172 lbs of trash that included foam, cargo transfer bags, dirty crew clothing, assorted hygiene products, and other supplies. Just like with the Cygnus method, the waste bag burns up upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

"Waste collection in space has been a long standing, yet not as publicly discussed, challenge aboard the ISS," stated Cooper Read, Bishop Airlock program manager at Nanoracks. "Four astronauts can generate up to 2,500 kg of trash per year, or about two trash cans per week. As we move into a time with more people living and working in space, this is a critical function just like it is for everyone at home."

Top Image Credit: Nanoracks