Monitoring of the Atmosphere on the International Space Station with the Air Quality Monitor



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47th International Conference on Environmental Systems


During the early years of human spaceflight, short duration missions allowed for monitoring of the spacecraft environment to be performed via archival sampling, in which samples were returned to Earth for analysis. With the construction of the International Space Station (ISS) and the accompanying extended mission durations, the need for enhanced, real-time monitors became apparent. The Volatile Organic Analyzer (VOA) operated on ISS for 7 years, where it assessed trace volatile organic compounds in the cabin air. The large and fixed-position VOA was eventually replaced with the smaller Air Quality Monitor (AQM). Since March 2013, the atmosphere of the U.S. Operating Segment (USOS) has been monitored in near real-time by a pair of AQMs. These devices consist of a gas chromatograph (GC) coupled with a differential mobility spectrometer (DMS) and currently target detection list of 22 compounds. These targets are of importance to both crew health and the Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) on ISS. Data is collected autonomously every 73 hours, though the units can be controlled remotely from mission control to collect data more frequently during contingency or troubleshooting operations. Due to a nominal three-year lifetime on-orbit, the initial units were replaced in February 2016.

This paper will focus on the preparation and use of the AQMs over the past several years. A description of the technical aspects of the AQM will be followed by lessons learned from the deployment and operation of the first set of AQMs. These lessons were used to improve the already-excellent performance of the instruments prior to deployment of the replacement units. Data trending over the past several years of operation on ISS will also be discussed, including data obtained during a survey of the USOS modules. Finally, a description of AQM use for contingency and investigative studies will be presented.


William T. Wallace, KBRwyle, USA
Thomas F. Limero, KBRwyle, USA
Leslie J. Loh, JES Tech, USA
Paul D. Mudgett, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA
Daniel B. Gazda, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA
ICES504: Management of Air Quality in Sealed Environments
The 47th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in South Carolina, USA on 16 July 2017 through 20 July 2017


Environmental monitoring, Air Quality, Gas Chromatography-Differential Mobility Spectrometry