Leaky Toilets on Capsules Proving Troublesome for SpaceX as 4-Astronaut Launch Looms

Days before SpaceX is scheduled to launch four astronauts into space, crews are working to complete last-minute repairs on leaky toilets in its Dragon capsules, the Associated Press reported. The newest capsule, named Endurance, will launch early Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX conducted its first private flight into space last month, but a tube in the capsule came unglued and allowed urine to spill onto fans beneath the floor, according to William Gerstenmaier, a SpaceX vice president who previously worked for NASA. The same problem was detected in another Dragon capsule that has been at the International Space Station since April, he said.

To prevent it from coming unglued like the first, SpaceX crews welded on the urine-flushing tube in the capsule slated to be launched Sunday. While NASA hasn't finished reviewing the repairs, NASA astronaut Raja Chari, the spacecraft commander, said Tuesday that he has "complete confidence" in the fixes, the AP reported. He added that hundreds of people were working to make sure the crew will be as safe as possible come launch time.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

SpaceX Capsule Repairs
Days before SpaceX is scheduled to launch four astronauts into space, crews are working to complete last-minute repairs on leaky toilets in its Dragon capsules. Crew 3 astronauts, from left, European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, of Germany, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron speak to the media after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Oct. 26, 2021. John Raoux/AP Photo

As for the Dragon capsule in orbit, less urine pooled beneath the floor panels than the one that carried a billionaire and three others on a three-day flight, Gerstenmaier said. That's because the NASA-led crew only spent a day living in it before arriving at the space station.

SpaceX is conducting tests to make sure the spilled liquid didn't weaken the orbiting capsule during the past six months, Gerstenmaier said. Any structural damage could endanger astronauts during their flight back to Earth next month. The final tests should be completed later this week, he noted.

This will be SpaceX's fourth launch of NASA astronauts and its fifth passenger flight overall. NASA turned to SpaceX and Boeing to transport crews to and from the space station, following the retirement of the shuttle fleet in 2011. U.S. astronauts hitched rides on Russian rockets until SpaceX took over the job last year.

Boeing has yet to launch anyone. A repeat test flight of its Starliner capsule, without a crew, is off until next year because of valve trouble.

Once he launches atop SpaceX's Falcon rocket, German astronaut Matthias Maurer will become the 600th person in space, according to NASA statistics. He said at a news conference Tuesday that he offered the designation to U.S. crew mate Kayla Barron, who will be the 601st.

"She and I will be together like No. 600," Maurer said. "I was the lucky one that got the round number, but we will all have fun in space," Maurer said.

SpaceX Launch
SpaceX is scrambling to resolve toilet spills in its capsules before it launches another crew for NASA. Liftoff is currently set for early Oct. 31, from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station for docking on April 24, 2021, in this photo made available by NASA. NASA via AP