The International Space Station is in low orbit around Earth. Aboard the ISS is a team of scientists conducting experiments in a number of different fields. To support life and conduct these important scientific experiments, the ISS has temperature and climate control systems to maintain good working and living conditions. We were curious as to what this system is like and what the temperature and climate aboard the ISS are actually like.
For the most part, the average temperature aboard the ISS is kept around 65 to 80˚F (18.3 to 26.7°C). This can vary from time to time and module to module. For instance, there have been times when the ECLSS has had system failures, which would cause the temperature to vary until they are up and running again. Every module may be slightly different, too. The Russian segment comes in around 68-77°F (20-25°C). This temperature and climate control are carried out by a number of different systems.
The climate control system in place for the ISS is called the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS). The top priority for the ECLSS is to maintain the atmosphere aboard the ISS, but it also performs a variety of other functions. Besides atmospheric pressure, the ECLSS controls or provides fire detection, fire suppression, waste management, oxygen levels and water supply. It is also responsible for collecting, processing an storing waste and water used by the crew. This process recycles much of the fluid from sinks, showers, toilets and simple condensation from the air within the ISS.
The ISS atmosphere is kept similar to that on Earth. This is for both safety and comfort, as the other option is an all oxygen atmosphere. To remove unwanted contaminants, like carbon dioxide, from the air, the Air Revitalization System has been installed. This system is also responsible for monitoring certain levels within the ISS atmosphere. These gases include nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and water vapor.
The Oxygen Generating System (OGS) from NASA is designed to separate water from the Water Recovery System into oxygen and hydrogen through a process called electrolysis. The OGS delivers the life giving oxygen to the cabin atmosphere, while the hydrogen is vented overboard.
The Russian scientists have an oxygen generator called Elektron. This oxygen generator uses the same type of process as the OGS to produce oxygen and hydrogen, though it has been plagued with problems. These problems are what spurred NASA to add the OGS. the Russians also brought Vika, also known as Solid Fuel Oxygen Generation (SFOG). Vika is a chemical oxygen generator that can provide canisters with up to a day's worth of oxygen for one crew member in each one.
Protecting the scientists from the extreme heat of the sun and the extreme cold of the dark is not an easy task. The ISS has several systems in place to protect the crew and allow for comfortable living and working situations. Even when one system fails, there are redundancies in place to continue providing an Earth-like atmosphere aboard the ISS.