AEM-E – A small life support system for the transport of rodents to the ISS
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Current resupply carriers to the ISS, such as the Dragon or Cygnus capsules, do not yet support replenishment or control of atmosphere constituent altered by respiration of living cargo. In order to transport animals for scientific experiments to the ISS, an Environmental Control and Life Support System is therefore needed. The newly developed Animal Enclosure Module–Environmental Control (AEM-E) payload supplements the AEM-T animal carrier and was designed to compensate the respiration-induced changes by replenishing the consumed oxygen to the cabin atmosphere and by removing metabolically produced carbon dioxide and moisture. AEM-E takes a desiccant-based approach to remove moisture with silicon dioxide and carbon dioxide with lithium hydroxide. For the oxygen supply, a novel gaseous oxygen replenishment system was designed. The functionality of the AEM-E was verified under worst-case load conditions in subsystem and integrated tests with simulated and actual mice in an isolated environment for up to 10 days and up to 20 mice. This paper discusses quantitative and qualitative test results of the subsystem and integrated tests. Activity- and time-dependent air composition and respiration data from the isolated environment during the integrated flight-simulation tests are presented. The system has undergone flight certification and safety assessment and is planned to be flight-ready in late 2014.