National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



Biofouling Vol. 26, No. 5, July 2010, 583–586


U.S. Government Work


As the provision of potable water is critical for successful habitation of the International Space Station (ISS), life support systems were installed in December 2008 to recycle both humidity from the atmosphere and urine to conserve available water in the Station. In-flight pre-consumption testing from the dispensing needle at the Potable Water Dispenser (PWD) indicated that bacterial concentrations exceeded the current ISS specifications of 50 colony-forming units (CFU) ml-1. Subsequent investigations revealed that a corrugated stainless steel flex hose upstream of the dispensing needle in the PWD was filled with nonsterile water and left at room temperature for more than 1 month before launch. To simulate biofilm formation that was suspected in the flight system, sterile flex hoses were seeded with a consortium of bacterial isolates previously recovered from other ISS water systems, including Ralstonia pickettii, Burkholderia multivorans, Caulobacter vibrioides, and Cupriavidus pauculus. After incubation for 5 days, the hoses were challenged with various chemical disinfectants including hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), colloidal silver, and buffered pH solutions to determine the ability of the disinfectants to decrease and maintain bacterial concentrations below ISS specifications. The disinfection efficacy over time was measured by collecting daily heterotrophic plate counts after exposure to the disinfectants. A single flush with either 6% H2O2 solution or a mixture of 3% H2O2 and 400 ppb colloidal silver effectively reduced the bacterial concentrations to <1 CFU ml-1 for a period of up to 3 months.