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Food System and Dining

The middeck of the orbiter is equipped with facilities for food stowage, preparation, and dining for each crew member. The food supply is categorized as either menu food or pantry food. Menu food consists of three daily meals per crew member and provides an average energy intake of approximately 2,700 calories per crew member per day. The pantry food is a two-day contingency food supply that also contains food for snacks and beverages between meals and for individual menu changes. It provides an average energy intake of 2,100 calories per crew member per day. The types of food include fresh, thermostabilized, rehydratable, irradiated, intermediate-moisture, and natural-form food and beverages.

If a payload is installed in the middeck in lieu of the galley, the food preparation system is limited. It consists of the water dispenser, food warmer, food trays and food system accessories.

The water dispenser provides the flight crew with ambient and chilled water for drinking and reconstituting food. The water dispenser consists of a housing assembly, rehydration station, hygiene water quick disconnect and water lines. Two flex lines 10 feet long connect the housing assembly to the ambient and chilled potable water system. Both lines have quick disconnects. A 12-foot-long flex line with a quick disconnect and water-dispensing valve supplies water for personal hygiene. The water selector valve amb position provides ambient water to the rehydration station between 65 and 75 F. The off position prevents water from flowing to the rehydration station (it does not shut off water flow to the personal hygiene water outlet quick disconnect). The chd water position provides chilled water to the rehydration station between 45 and 55 F.

Depressing the hygiene water valve handle allows a constant flow of ambient water. Releasing the handle prevents water flow. The locked-open position allows a constant flow of ambient water without holding the handle.

The rehydration station is an electronic dispensing system that interfaces directly with food and beverage packages to provide rehydration capability and drinking water for flight crew members. The system dispenses 2, 3, 4 and 8 ounces of water through a replaceable needle. A spare needle is stowed at the rear of the rehydration unit and another in the in-flight maintenance middeck locker. The needles are removed and installed with a 3/8-inch open-end wrench. Depressing the pwr push button at the rehydration station provides power to the electronic rehydration system and an indicating light is illuminated within the switch upon activation. Depressing the pwr push button again deactivates the system. The water quantity rotary switch's 2, 3, 4 and 8 positions provide 2, 3, 4 and 8 ounces of water, respectively. The needle must be inserted into the package before depressing the fill push button to prevent free water from being dispensed into the crew cabin environment. Depressing the fill push button activates the electronic filling mechanism when the water quantity selection has been made. A light comes on within the fill switch during filling and goes out when filling is complete. The operation is automatically deactivated. The bypass valve provides a continuous flow of water to the food rehydration unit when the handle is depressed or lifted to the up locked-open position.

The rehydratable food container is inserted into the rehydration station, the water dispenser needle penetrates the rubber septum on the rehydratable container, and the specified amount of water is discharged into the container. The rehydrated food is mixed and heated, if required. The rehydrated food container is opened by grasping the center portion of the lid liner with the fingers, piercing the liner with a knife or scissors and pulling the liner up to aspirate air. While grasping the center of the liner, the astronaut swings container in a gentle forward and backward semicircular motion to place food contents at the bottom of the container. The inside edge of the lid liner (three sides) is cut with a knife or scissors to expose the food.

The rehydratable beverage container is inserted into the rehydration station, the water dispenser needle penetrates the rubber septum on the rehydratable container, and the specified amount of water is discharged into the container. The rehydratable beverage is mixed and heated, if required. A plastic clip is affixed to the straw in the closed position, the probe end of the straw is inserted into the container rubber septum, the straw is placed in the mouth, the clip is released, and the beverage is drunk. All straws are color-coded for each crew member.

Food trays are kept in a middeck stowage locker (or in the galley, if installed) at launch and are removed and installed in the use locations during preparations for the first meal. The tray is a clear, anodized aluminum sheet that restrains food and accessories during dining. The trays are color-coded for each crew member. Velcro on the bottom of the food trays allows them to be attached to the front of the middeck lockers (or the galley door, if installed) for food preparation or dining. The straps will also hold the trays on the crew member's leg for dining. A cutout on the tray allows three rehydratable food packages to be secured to the tray. Another cutout with rubber strips adapts to various-sized food packages, including cans, pouches and rehydratable food packages. Two magnetic strips hold eating utensils and two 0.75-inch-wide binder clips on the tray retain such things as condiment packets and wipes. Accessories used during food preparation and dining include condiments, gum and candy, vitamins, wet wipes, dry wipes, drinking containers, drinking straws, utensils and a re-entry kit that contains salt tablets and long straws.

Condiments include salt, pepper, taco sauce, hot pepper sauce, catsup, mayonnaise and mustard. The salt and pepper are liquids stored in small plastic squeeze bottles. The remaining condiments are packaged in individual, sealed, flexible plastic pouches. Vitamin tablets supplement dietary requirements. Wet wipes are packaged in 21 individual packets per dispenser for cleaning utensils after dining. A light spring action retains and positions wipes for dispensing. Empty beverage containers of rigid plastic for drinking and storing water are carried in crew members' clothing and can be filled at the water dispenser. Approximately five to 10 different color-coded straws are provided for each crew member (depending on the flight's duration) for drinking beverages and water. Additional straws are kept in the pantry beverages and various menu locker trays. Color-coded utensils include a knife, two spoons (large and small), a fork and a can opener for each crew member. They are stowed with a soft plastic holder that has a Velcro snap cover. Dry wipes are packaged in a 30-wipe container that can be attached to the crew cabin wall with Velcro for cleanup after dining. The re-entry kit consists of one package containing eight salt tablets for each crew member and long straws (four per crew member). Two salt tablets are to be taken with 8 ounces of water or other beverage by each crew member four times before entry. The re-entry kit may be stowed in one of three locations depending on space available-with the accessories, near the last meal to be consumed on orbit or with the pantry beverages.

The food warmer is a portable heating unit that can warm a meal for at least four crew members within one hour when the galley is not flown. It is stowed in a middeck locker at launch and is removed and installed during meal preparation activity. The food is heated by thermal conduction on a hot plate (element). The warmer is thermostatically controlled between 165 and 175 F. The case is constructed of aluminum with an exterior envelope of 13 by 18 by 6 inches. It has latches and is lined with clear urethane foam insulation coated with room-temperature vulcanizing compound. The case has straps for handling and on-orbit installation. The exterior contains controls and displays, a power connector that interfaces with the power cable and Velcro attachment. A hinged element is sandwiched between two aluminum plates and is contained by a fiberglass frame. The aluminum plates have spring-bungee restraints for foil-backed food packages on one side. An on/off switch provides two-phase ac power to the unit and a light indicates the warmer is operating. The power cable is 156 inches long and attaches to a middeck ac utility outlet. The cable is stowed inside the case at launch.

A maximum of 14 packages can be installed on the side of the spring bungees and eight on the other side. Rehydratable beverages should be placed on the side opposite the spring bungees, and the foam on the other side is additionally relieved to prevent the packages from popping out in zero gravity. When 14 rehydratable packages are heated, no foil-backed food pouches can be heated. A maximum of six foil-backed food pouches can be heated in conjunction with 12 rehydratable packages. When foil-backed pouches are heated, only four rehydratable packages can be heated on the side of the spring bungees. The foil-backed pouches are stacked three deep. Four rehydratable packages are inserted in the outer recessed foam cutouts. At the bottom of the cutouts, 0.5-inch-thick uncoated foam absorbs moisture or spilled liquids.

The galley is a multipurpose facility that provides a centralized location for one individual to handle all food preparation activities for a meal. The galley has facilities for heating food, rehydrating food and stowing food system accessories and food trays. The galley consists of a rehydration station, oven, food trays and food system accessories.

The oven is divided into two principal compartments-a lower compartment designed for heating at least 14 rehydratable food containers inserted on tracks and an upper compartment designed to accept a variety of food packages, including the rehydratable containers. At least seven food pouches can be heated in the upper compartment and are held against the heat sink by four spring-loaded plates. The oven has a heating range of 145 to 185 F. During launch and entry, the oven door is held closed by a restraining strap, which is removed from the door by releasing the snap for on-orbit operations. An on/off switch enables and removes power to three fans.

The rehydration station dispensing system interfaces directly with food and beverage packages, providing rehydration capability and drinking water for crew members. A gauge indicates hot water temperatures of 100 to 220 F. The volume/ounces switch selects the volume of water to be dispensed by the rehydration station in 0.5-ounce increments from 0.5 of an ounce to 8 ounces. The yellow hot push button indicator allows hot water to be dispensed when it is depressed and is illuminated when energized. When the selected volume of water has been dispensed, the push button will begin to flash on and off. The light will be extinguished when the food package is retracted, releasing the hydration station lever arm/limit switch. The rehydration station lever arm/limit switch serves as an interlock so water can be dispensed only when a food package is connected to the needle. The food package makes contact with the rehydration station lever, which activates the limit switch (note that the flight crew does not physically actuate the lever). The blue cold push button indicator allows cold water to be dispensed when it is depressed and is illuminated when energized. When the selected volume of water has been dispensed, the push button will begin to flash on and off. The light will be extinguished when the food package is retracted, releasing the rehydration station lever arm/limit switch.

The galley light is located on the upper left-hand side of the galley structure surface and has a single light brightness control. Moving the knob clockwise from off applies power to the light and provides variable brightness control.

Two condiment dispensers are attached to the galley by Velcro tabs on the back of the dispensers. The dispensers are available for holding individual packets, such as catsup, taco sauce, mayonnaise and mustard, on the front panel below the oven. The dispensers are open-ended boxes designed to hold the stack of packets together so they may be individually removed as needed. A slide plate keeps the packets from becoming loose as the items are depleted.

A single dispenser for holding individual packets of wet wipes is located on the front panel below the oven and is slightly different in design than the condiment dispensers.

Dispensers for liquid salt and pepper and vitamins can be restrained by clips conveniently located below the rehydration station.

Food trays and food system accessories are the same as those used on flights without the galley.

On the upper left-hand corner of the galley behind a Teflon cloth panel is an MV3 valve that has emer off and on positions. The on position serves as the nominal open position of the manual shutoff valve, and emer off serves as a manual shutoff valve for the ambient temperature water supply to the galley.

On the upper right-hand corner of the galley behind a Teflon cloth panel are test connectors, a dc power bus A and B switch and a flush port quick-disconnect test port. The two test connectors serve as a hookup for ground support equipment. The dc power bus A switch's on position activates the galley oven heaters, rehydration station system and one of six water tank strip heaters; the off position deactivates the heaters. The dc power bus B switch's on position activates five of the six galley water tank strip heaters, and the off position deactivates them. The flush port quick disconnect serves as the galley water system GSE flush port.

On the lower left-hand side of the galley is an auxiliary port water quick disconnect that allows the crew members to obtain ambient potable water when the MV3 valve is off or hygiene water when the 12-foot flex line and water dispensing valve are attached to the quick disconnect.

Three one-hour meal periods are scheduled for each day of the mission. This hour includes actual eating time and the time required to clean up. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are scheduled as close to the usual hours as possible. Dinner is scheduled at least two to three hours before crew members begin preparations for their sleep period.


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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