The International Space Station will have a new lifeboat for approximately seven months. The lifeboat spacecraft is not necessarily wished to be called into service but in the event that people need to be evacuated off of the International Space Station, this “next generation” American spacecraft will come to rescue.

Right now, in the place of this next generation American spacecraft, the lifeboat function is served by a pair of Russian Soyuz spacecraft which hold three people each. The Soyuz lifeboat is pictured here:

russian space soyuz space craft landed

This means that there can be six people working on a station at a time. With the next generation spacecraft, there is the ability to offer another four to seven seats so more people would be available for research duties according to NASA. This section explained the difference between the Soyuz spacecraft and the next generation American spacecraft that will soon be used. The new lifeboat looks like this:

nasa life boat space station

Next, we look into engineering specifications and some of the conditions that lifeboats are designed to face.

In a recent article by NASA, their engineers revel the two capabilities that a spacecraft must perform to be called a life boat. They are: “First, the spacecraft needs to provide a shelter for astronauts in case of a problem on the station. Second, the ship has to be able to quickly get all its systems operating and detach from the station for a potential return to Earth.” In addition to these two requirements, the spacecraft also needs to run on the little amount of power that is dedicated for a docked crew spacecraft (the amount of power is about the amount of electricity a refrigerator uses). Let’s look at engineering’s relative that is, design.

When it comes to spacecraft design for the lifeboat feature, the challenges include a few things. First, it is ideal for the lifeboat to be powered off when not in use, but the deputy manager of CCP’s Spacecraft Office explained that this isn’t currently the case because air needs to be circulated since air doesn’t automatically circulate in microgravity the way it does on Earth. Another thing that designers need to look out for is that the spacecraft needs to be protected from things outside the spacecraft like micrometeoroids and should be able to survive an occasional hit, yet the armor cannot be too heavy to launch.

nasa life boat space station international

The new lifeboat is much anticipated because of the increased amount of people that it can hold. The “extra seats” compared to the Soyuz lifeboat which is currently used will most likely be used for researchers. In addition, the design and engineering challenges and specifications are extraordinary. We highly recommend viewing the NASA website for more information at:

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