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SpaceX needs to tame toilet problems ahead of weekend launch


CAP CANAVERAL – SpaceX tames some toilet problems in its Dragon pods before launching four more astronauts.

The company and NASA want to make sure that no toilet leaks will compromise the capsule launched Sunday morning from the Kennedy Space Center or another stationed at the International Space Station since April.

During SpaceX’s first private flight last month, a tube came off, spilling urine on the fans and under the ground, said William Gerstenmaier, SpaceX vice president who worked for NASA. The same problem was recently discovered inside the space station’s Dragon capsule, he told reporters on Monday evening.

As a permanent solution, SpaceX welded the urine flush tube inside the company’s new capsule, named Endurance by its US-German crew. NASA isn’t quite done reviewing the last-minute fix.

NASA astronaut Raja Chari, the commander of the spacecraft, said on Tuesday he had “complete confidence” in the repairs. SpaceX quickly jumped on the problem, he noted, with hundreds of people working on it to keep the crew safe.

As for the orbiting Dragon capsule, less urine pooled under the floor panels than the one carrying a billionaire and three others on a three-day flight, Gerstenmaier said. That’s because the NASA-led crew only spent a day there before arriving at the space station.

SpaceX is performing tests to make sure the spilled liquid hasn’t weakened the orbiting capsule in the past six months, Gerstenmaier said. Any structural damage could endanger the astronauts on their return flight to Earth next month. Final testing is expected to be completed later this week, he noted.

This will be SpaceX’s fourth NASA astronaut launch and its fifth total passenger flight. NASA turned to SpaceX and Boeing to transport crews to and from the space station, after the shuttle fleet retired in 2011. US astronauts boarded Russian rockets until SpaceX took over. Last year.

Boeing hasn’t launched anyone yet. A repeated test flight of its unmanned Starliner capsule is interrupted until next year due to a valve problem.

Once launched atop SpaceX’s Falcon rocket, German astronaut Matthias Maurer will become the 600th person in space, according to NASA statistics. He told a press conference on Tuesday that he proposed the designation to his American teammate Kayla Barron, who will be the 601st.

“She and I will be together like No.600,” Maurer said. “I was lucky to have the number round, but we’re all going to have fun in space,” Maurer said.

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