SpaceX is getting ready to launch another Crew Dragon to send astronauts to the ISS this weekend. The fact that the Crew Dragon had a toilet aboard is something that many didn’t know until the Inspiration4 mission that sent an all civilian crew into space. On that mission, SpaceX confirmed that an alarm did go off, indicating an issue with the toilet aboard the spacecraft.
The issue was that a tube that was supposed to drain urine into a holding tank was draining urine into a fan. Zero gravity toilets utilize fan systems to create suction to prevent waste from escaping into the atmosphere. The problem in this instance was that the tube had broken, allowing liquid waste to get into the fans.
Luckily for the crew members, none of the waste made it into the crew compartment. However, the liquid waste did contaminate areas underneath flooring inside the spacecraft. SpaceX confirmed the contamination during inspection after the Crew Dragon returned to earth.
SpaceX has now found a solution to that problem that involves welding the tube to its fitting. While the fix seems easy enough on the surface, anything change on a spacecraft requires NASA approval. However, SpaceX expects NASA to approve the fix before the Crew Dragon launch this weekend.
Toilet issues aren’t nearly as significant for trips from Earth to the ISS because those trips are short. However, toilet problems become a much bigger issue when the capsule spends a length of time in orbit, as it did with the Inspiration4 mission. SpaceX and NASA are also working to ensure the urine that made its way into the floor panels doesn’t cause any problems for the capsule in the future.