RoundupReads Custodial team is in Orion’s corner during prototype testing

Custodial team is in Orion’s corner during prototype testing


A custodial team for mission support under the Native Resource Development Co., Inc. helped advance human spaceflight science by troubleshooting a challenge Kirstyn Johnson with NASA Johnson Space Center’s Engineering Directorate was facing to prove out new waste-management hardware for Orion missions.

With no room at the on-site clinic for this type of testing, Johnson sought out old space shuttle crew dressing rooms in Building 5, where crews used to dress for suited simulations. With the support of Building 5 Facility Manager Jerry Swain, Johnson was able to move forward with the hardware assessment.

The experiment provided a functionality evaluation of the Urine Collection Device, which must meet vigorous standards since Orion crews will remain in their spacesuits—and rely on the device—for a maximum duration of six days.

Flight Ops set aside the testing area and made the rooms available for the out-of-the-ordinary request. Because the experiment would require using the bathroom a little outside of its normal use profile, investigators needed help from the custodial staff to support the test and make sure the workplace was kept clean and sanitary. A Test Readiness Review was conducted for safety and acceptability of the rooms, where it was recognized that due to the nature of the testing, custodial support would be a heavily involved with the task.

Though it could be considered a “weird” evaluation with few people involved, it was also a necessary test to further human spaceflight. The bathrooms always had to be clean and ready.

The test was a rare but welcome opportunity for the custodial team to have an impact on prototyping for the Orion Program—and help save funds, too. Post-test cleanup required policing the test area and disposing of any hazardous waste. Though the Center Operations Directorate was poised to authorize additional support for the exercises, if necessary, it was soon realized that the custodial team was already certified for this work, and no additional training or costs would need to be incurred.

The extensive maintenance allowed the test subjects to feel comfortable while participating in something a little out of the ordinary. Johnson, especially, wanted to make the participants feel like they were in a hygienic, clean and safe space. Even when there were back-to-back test subjects, Johnson said, “They were always on top of their game. Having their support for something like this was a huge game changer.” 

The investigators ended up hosting 15 test subjects—each requiring custodial support.

The project demonstrated that it takes different team players within all areas at the center to accomplish JSC’s mission. And, with a little innovative thinking and troubleshooting, many challenges are just smaller roadblocks that can be surmounted.

Stacy Shutts, Kirstyn Johnson and Jerry Swain
NASA Johnson Space Center

From left is Ana Valdez, janitorial staff member, and Joyce Rankin, janitorial supervisor. This year, they aided Orion prototype testing in Building 5. Image courtesy of Bill Bash.