ACLS is a life support system technology demonstrator, developed since 2011 by Airbus for ESA.  The launch of the facility occurred on 22 September 2018 on board of HTV7 Pressurized Logistics Carrier from Tanegashima Space Center, Japan


ACLS system development and qualification phase of ACLS was completed in February 2018. After shipment to Japan, a check-out was performed together with launch readiness activities. In April finally ACLS was installed in the HTV7 Pressurized Logistics Carrier and is now awaiting its mission to the ISS. HTV was the only remaining carrier with a hatch large enough to allow transferring the facility into the space station. German astronaut Alexander Gerst shall perform the installation and outfitting activities in early November 2018. 

Kayser Italia has contributed to ACLS with the development of the entire facility Avionics including the Flight Software and the internal and external harness as sub-contractor of Airbus Defence and Space. The ACLS Avionics is composed in total by eight electronic boxes placed inside the rack and interconnected to the devices to be managed. The Avionics is based on a modular concept that allows an easy replacement of boards and subsystems for maintenance and possible future improvements.

One of the ACLS Avionics Boxes Developed by Kayser Italia

One of the ACLS Avionics Electronic Boards Developed by Kayser Italia

ACLS Rack in on-orbit configuration
(yellow frame is ground support structure only)
(Photo credit: AIRBUS)

The photo above shows the entire ACLS rack, the Kayser Italia developed Avionics and harness is placed behind the white front panels and is not visible. Just at the bottom, a small portion of the power and data interface to ISS is visible. 

The ACLS rack contains all elements to remove carbon dioxide from the ISS atmosphere, produce oxygen and generate water. Methane is a byproduct which can be further used or vented overboard. 

ACLS is unique in its compactness and is generating about 40 percent of the fresh water needed for operations of the facility, thus strongly reducing the required upload mass for water supply.

Sized for a crew of three astronauts ACLS shall demonstrate its capabilities until the end of 2019 before becoming a sub-system of the ISS environmental control and life support system. With commercial crewed flights in the near future, the existing station systems need to be supplemented for crews larger than six astronauts. 

The technology demonstration is a major step for Airbus in the development of a closed loop life support system for human spaceflight beyond low earth orbit.

ACLS, in the operational world renamed Life Support Rack, will be commanded and monitored from the Airbus site Friedrichshafen, Germany, in close cooperation with ESA and NASA control centers.

ACLS in launch configuration, being loaded into HTV7
(Photo credit: AIRBUS)