NASA to Launch $23 Million Toilet to ISS This Week

The Cygnus spacecraft, with toilet and other supplies aboard, is scheduled to launch on Oct. 1.
Chris Young
NASA's space toilet at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.NASA

This one would make a good trivia question. What is the most expensive toilet ever made?

You wouldn't want to bet against NASA's $23 million lavatory, which will be sent up to the International Space Station (ISS) this week aboard Northrop Grumman's Cygnus NG-13 cargo resupply spacecraft.


State of the art flushing

The mission, which is called Cygnus NG-14, will deliver 7,624 lbs (3,458 kilograms) of cargo on what will be the Cygnus spacecraft's 13th mission to the International Space Station, and 14th flight overall.

Cygnus is set to launch aboard an Antares rocket at 9:38 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 1, with recent weather forecasts looking 70% favorable, NASA said in a recent statement. The mission will launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. 

NASA to Launch $23 Million Toilet to ISS This Week
Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft attached to the International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm, Source: NASA

The ISS-bound cargo will include crew supplies, including food and scientific experiments. However, the main attraction is no doubt NASA's new $23 million space toilet, which is officially known by the grandiose title, the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS).

The UWMS offers more comfort at the same time as being 65% smaller and 40% lighter than the toilet currently used aboard the space station, NASA officials explained in a press release.

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'Today's coffee is tomorrow's coffee'

The updated toilet was made following feedback from female astronauts about the ease-of-use and comfort of the current ISS space toilet. Consistent astronaut feedback also indicated that the traditional thigh straps used on the toilet to keep astronauts from floating out of position while going were a hassle. 

Finally, the UWMS offers a more efficient water recycling and treating system, which is, of course, used to make the astronauts' urine drinkable aboard that space station.

As NASA astronaut Jessica Meir explains, "when it comes to our urine on ISS, today’s coffee is tomorrow’s coffee!"

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