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SPACE HEATER: How Do Astronauts On The International Space Station Stay Clean and Warm?

SPACE HEATER: How Do Astronauts On The International Space Station Stay Clean and Warm?

Here at Great British Heating we’re fascinated by all things related to heating and plumbing.

The humble boiler and central heating have a surprisingly interesting history that stretches from the underfloor heating systems first used by ancient civilisations to the state-of-the-art SMART heating many of us enjoy today.

We’ve covered engineering marvels of heating before, in our blog entry about the world’s largest portable boiler

But arguably the most impressive technology of its type must be the systems used in the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS is a research laboratory in low Earth orbit in which crew members conduct experiments in
biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields. An international crew of six people live and work while traveling at a speed of five miles per second, orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes.

The Crew Stay Up There For Months At A Time, So How Do They Stay Warm In The Jaw-Dropping Cold Of Low Earth Orbit?

Robert Frost, Instructor and Flight Controller at NASA, answered this question on question and answer site Quora. He said:

“Warm is pretty easy. Cool is harder. The outside of the ISS can reach temperatures as high as 250 degrees F (121 C) on the sunny side and as low as -250 degrees F (-157 C) on the shady side.

“Inside the ISS are plenty of things that generate heat – such as human bodies, laptop computers, pumps, and other electrical devices. It takes a lot of work and complicated thermal control systems to remove that heat from its sources and transport it outside where it can be radiated to space.

“For the parts of the ISS that do need active effort to keep warm, that is accomplished using simple electrical resistance heater pads. They work on a simple premise – the thin pad has a wire running back and forth and back and forth many times within it.

“That wire is attached to an electrical source and electricity flows through the wire. The circuit has resistance and resistance results in heat.

“The wire gets warm, so the pad gets warm, and so whatever surface it is adhered to will also get warm. A thermostat will measure the temperature in that vicinity and the value of that temperature will be used to turn the electrical circuit for the heater pad on and off.”

But What About Staying Clean. How Do The Astronauts Shower?

Well, they don’t. Astronauts instead use liquid soap, water, and rinse-less shampoo.

They squeeze liquid soap and water from pouches onto their skin. Then they use rinse-less soap with a little water to clean their hair. They use towels to wipe off the excess water and an airflow system nearby quickly evaporates excess water.

Contact Us

If you’re looking for a reliable and qualified heating engineer to repair or replace your boiler, call Great British Heating on 0800 131 0275. We’re open 24/7! Our Gas Safe engineers are here to
help you with all your heating needs. Except maybe in space!