Effects of Ambient Alcohol Levels on the Real-time Monitoring of the Atmosphere of the International Space Station



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51st International Conference on Environmental Systems


Monitoring of the spacecraft environment is required to ensure the health of the crew and the vehicle systems. For the ISS atmosphere, routine volatile organic compound (VOC) monitoring has been performed for almost a decade by Air Quality Monitors (AQMs). The target compounds measured by the AQMs include three types of chemicals: 1) those compounds that would be harmful to crew, 2) those compounds that have been detected regularly in archival samples, and 3) compounds that, while not necessarily harmful to crew health, could present problems for Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS). Following the docking of SpaceX-Demo1 (SpX-DM1), the AQMs began to report high levels of isopropanol (IPA). While elevated IPA is routinely observed with visiting vehicles, the level measured by the AQM, and its continued presence following multiple days of scrubbing, caused concerns regarding the U.S. Water Recovery System. Following the departure of SpX-DM1, the IPA levels decreased to nominal levels, allowing the team to investigate the cause of the elevated measurements. Based on the changes in the shape of the gas chromatograph (GC) traces in the IPA region during docked operations, it appeared that an unknown coeluting species was causing problems with quantification. However, with the docking of Northrup-Grumman-11 (NG-11), the elevated IPA returned, as well as the changes in GC traces. In contrast to the SpX-DM1 results, the AQM IPA results did not return to nominal levels following the departure of NG-11, suggesting that the changes could not be tied directly to the visiting vehicle. In this paper, we will discuss a number of potential causes for both the genuine (measured in archival samples) increases in IPA as well as the much higher levels measured by the AQM. Additionally, we will discuss methods being explored to decrease the potential for a reoccurrence in the future.


William Wallace, KBR, US
Thomas Limero, KBR, US
Kenneth Clark, JES Tech, US
Daniel Gazda, NASA, US
Edgar Hudson, JES Tech, US
ICES504: Management of Air Quality in Sealed Environments
The 51st International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Saint Paul, Minnesota, US, on 10 July 2022 through 14 July 2022.


International Space Station, Gas chromatography-differential mobility spectrometry, Volatile organic compound monitoring