London, Nov 26 : NASA has fixed the glitches in its new urine recycling system on the International Space Station (ISS), bolstering hopes it will be able to expand the research outpost's crew next year.
Reusing wastewater is essential for doubling the size of the crew living aboard the station from three members to six, especially since the space shuttles, which produce water as a by-product of their electrical systems, are to be retired in two years.
According to a report in New Scientist, the device, part of a 250 million dollars new life-support system aboard the station, shut down during three previous attempts to purify urine.
NASA wants the visiting shuttle Endeavour crew to bring home processed samples for analysis before declaring the water purification system suitable for use.
Two rounds of modifications to stabilise the device's centrifuge appear to have worked, according to flight director Brian Smith.
It completed a full five-hour run on November 24, and was nearing completion of a second full run early on November 25.
Engineers planned to keep the device operating all day in hopes of producing enough processed urine before Endeavour's departure on November 28.
The device was ferried into orbit and installed in the station's Destiny laboratory after the shuttle arrived on November 16.
The shuttle's stay at the station was extended a day to wait for the samples.
"We're going to try to keep it going all day and have the crew just reload the (urine) tank as it gets low," Smith said.
Endeavour is due back at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 30, after 16 days in orbit.
NASA plans eight more flights to the station, a 100 billion dollars project of 16 nations, before the shuttles are retired in 2010.