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International Space Station ejects massive bag of trash for first time

Footage from Nanorack's first successful test of its new waste disposal system using its Bishop Airlock has been published online.

Published Jul 8, 2022 5:03 AM CDT   |   Updated Sun, Jul 31 2022 8:02 PM CDT

The International Space Station (ISS) has successfully ejected trash from an airlock for the first time.

The Bishop Airlock aboard the station was built by Nanoracks and was used to test Nanoracks' new orbital waste-disposal technology on July 2nd, 2022, at 7:05 PM Central Time. The test saw approximately 172 pounds (78 kilograms) of trash jettisoned toward Earth. Contained inside the "specially designed waste container" was foam, packing materials, hygiene products, office supplies, clothing, and more, which will burn up in the atmosphere upon re-entry.

The Nanoracks waste container can be packed full of up to 600 pounds (272 kilograms) of trash and is an alternative method of waste disposal for the space station to the currently used Cygnus cargo vehicle. The Cygnus docks at the space station to be packed with months' worth of accumulated trash before it leaves the space station to re-enter Earth's atmosphere and burn away.

"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," said Dr. Amela Wilson, Nanoracks CEO.

"Waste collection in space has been a long standing, yet not as publicly discussed, challenge aboard the ISS. 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," said Cooper Read, Bishop Airlock program manager at Nanoracks.

Read more from Nanoracks' press release here.

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