(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — SpaceX is taming some toilet troubles in its Dragon capsules before launching four more astronauts.
The company and NASA want to make sure any toilet leaks won’t compromise the capsule launching early Sunday from Kennedy Space Center or another one that’s been parked at the International Space Station since April.
During SpaceX’s first private flight last month, a tube came unglued, spilling urine onto fans and beneath the floor, said William Gerstenmaier, a SpaceX vice president who used to work for NASA. He revealed Monday night that the same issue was discovered in the Dragon capsule of the space station.
As a permanent fix, SpaceX has welded on the urine-flushing tube that’s inside the company’s newest capsule, named Endurance by its U.S.-German crew. NASA isn’t quite finished reviewing the last-minute fix.
NASA astronaut Raja Chari, the spacecraft commander, said Tuesday that he has “complete confidence” in the repairs. SpaceX jumped quickly on the issue, he noted, with hundreds of people working on it to ensure the crew’s safety.
Gerstenmaier stated that the Dragon capsule was in orbit had less urine than its predecessor, which carried three billionaires and their three children on three days of flight. That’s because the NASA-led crew only spent a day living in it before arriving at the space station.
SpaceX is conducting tests to make sure the spilled liquid didn’t weaken the orbiting capsule during the past six months, Gerstenmaier said. The astronauts could become seriously ill if any structural damage occurs during the return flight to Earth next year. He noted that the final testing should be finished by this week.
This will be SpaceX’s fourth launch of NASA astronauts and its fifth passenger flight overall. After the 2011 retirement of NASA’s shuttle fleet, NASA turned to SpaceX to help transport astronauts to the station. U.S. astronauts rode on Russian rockets, until SpaceX assumed the task last year.
Boeing has never launched any person. Because of valve problems, a second test flight with the Starliner capsule will not be possible until next year.
Once he launches atop SpaceX’s Falcon rocket, German astronaut Matthias Maurer will become the 600th person in space, according to NASA statistics. At Tuesday’s news conference, he stated that he gave the title to Kayla Barron from the United States. She will become the 601st.
“She and I will be together like No. 600,” Maurer said. “I was the lucky one that got the round number, but we will all have fun in space,” Maurer said.