For the first time ever, NASA tested a new waste disposal technology by releasing about 78 kg of garbage from the International Space Station. The trash was jettisoned from the Bishop Airlock of the space station at 5:35 am IST on July 2 and deployed Nanoracks’ first-of-its-kind technology. According to Nanoracks, which developed the first-of-its-kind technology in collaboration with NASA’s Johnson Space Center, this initiative demonstrated an efficient and sustainable model for eliminating waste aboard the ISS.
Under this pioneering test, the garbage bag released from the space station burned up into the atmosphere during re-entry thus eliminating the possibility of the trash falling on Earth. Owing to the atmospheric burn, the baggage also reduced the chances of adding to the space debris in the low-Earth orbit. Currently, astronauts aboard the ISS store their useless materials and wait for the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to arrive and collect the trash.
Once the Cygnus has completed its primary mission, it undocks from the space station and with bags of garbage, it entirely burns up during re-entry. For the latest test, the astronauts filled the bag with trash including foam and packing materials, cargo transfer bags, dirty crew clothing, assorted hygiene products and used office supplies. According to 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. He further said that waste collection has been a long-standing challenge and as more people are living and working in space, dealing with waste in a sustainable manner becomes a major objective.