Monday, September 26

Watch as the space station spits garbage towards Earth | Digital Trends Spanish

Although most people in the earth are lucky enough to have access to municipal services that take care of all our garbage, such garbage collection systems do not extend into space.

That means the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) need some other way to dispose of the debris accumulated during their long stays in orbit 250 miles above Earth.

Current ISS inhabitant Samantha Cristoforetti, who arrived at the orbiting outpost in April, tweeted this week a short video (below) showing the crew disposing of the station’s trash.

It’s pretty much the Earth equivalent of throwing it out a window, though luckily, gravity means that instead of landing in someone’s backyard, the discarded material quickly burns up as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.

“In July we tested a new capability for the space station,” the Italian astronaut said in her tweet. “Filled with dry trash and foam, this large dumpster was jettisoned from a depressurized airlock on the station and burned harmlessly in Earth’s atmosphere.”

Back in July we tested a new capability for the @Space_Station. Filled with dry trash & foam, this big trash bag was jettisoned from a depressurized airlock on the station & it burned up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere. #MissionMinerva @this @esaspaceflight

— Samantha Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) September 13, 2022

Watch carefully and you can see the garbage emerging from the bishop lock at a rapid rate. Below is another video showing the process taking place in slow motion.

Nanoracks Bishop Airlock – International Space Station Trash Deployment – View #1

Built by Texas-based Nanoracks, the airlock’s dumpsters can hold up to 600 pounds (272 kg) of unwanted material.

“Debris collection in space has been a long-standing, but not as publicly discussed, challenge aboard the ISS,” said Cooper Read, Bishop Airlock program manager at Nanoracks, earlier this year. “Four astronauts can generate up to 5,510 pounds (2,500 kg) of garbage per year, or about two garbage cans per week. As we move to a time when more people live and work in space, this is a critical function just as it is for everyone at home.”

Prior to the deployment of the Bishop Lock, which is also used by commercial customers for payload deployments and moving equipment around the outside of the station, trash was piled onto an outgoing cargo ship and then burned in the atmosphere of the earth. The new system means astronauts can eject debris more regularly rather than letting it accumulate inside the station.

Following the first use of the airlock in July, Nanoracks CEO Dr. Amela Wilson commented, “This successful trial not only demonstrates the future of debris removal for space stations, but also highlights our ability to leverage the ISS as a commercial technology test bed, providing critical insights into how we can prepare for the next phases of commercial low-Earth orbit destinations.”

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