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Status of the International Space Station (ISS) Trace Contaminant Control System

Journal Article
ISSN: 1946-3855, e-ISSN: 1946-3901
Published July 12, 2009 by SAE International in United States
Status of the International Space Station (ISS) Trace Contaminant Control System
Citation: Macatangay, A., Perry, J., Belcher, P., and Johnson, S., "Status of the International Space Station (ISS) Trace Contaminant Control System," SAE Int. J. Aerosp. 4(1):48-54, 2011,
Language: English


A habitable atmosphere is a fundamental requirement for human spaceflight. To meet this requirement, the cabin atmosphere must be constantly scrubbed to maintain human life and system functionality. The primary system for atmospheric scrubbing of the US on-orbit segment (USOS) of the International Space Station (ISS) is the Trace Contaminant Control System (TCCS). As part of the Environmental Control and Life Support Systems' (ECLSS) atmosphere revitalization rack in the US Lab, the TCCS operates continuously, scrubbing trace contaminants generated primarily by two sources: the metabolic off-gassing of crew members and the off-gassing of equipment in the ISS. It has been online for approximately 95% of the time since activated in February 2001. The TCCS is comprised of a charcoal bed, a catalytic oxidizer, and a lithium hydroxide post-sorbent bed, all of which are designed to be replaced on-orbit when necessary. In 2006, all three beds were replaced following an observed increase in the system resistance that occurred over a period several months. The beds were returned to ground and subjected to a test, teardown and evaluation (TT&E) to investigate the root cause(s) of the decrease in flow rate through the system. In addition, various chemical and physical analyses of the bed materials were performed to determine contaminant loading and any changes in performance. This paper will mainly focus on the results of these analyses and how this correlates with what has been observed from archival sampling and on-orbit events. This has provided insight into the future performance of the TCCS and rate of change for orbital replacement units in the TCCS.