The International Space Station is about to get some new hardware. When the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket that is part of the CRS-14 mission reaches the ISS later today, the astronauts will be replacing a printer that has been on the station for the last 17 years.
The astronauts on the ISS have access to the best gadgets with the most advanced technology like DNA sequencers, mechanical assistants, and even a 3D printer. But when it came to printing on paper, the printer from 17 years back, an Epson 800, had stayed strong. It is about to be replaced with an HP Envy ISS printer that has specifically been designed to work in space.
The HP Envy ISS is based off the OfficeJet 5740, which has been customized to work in zero gravity, and in multiple orientations. The ISS occupants go through almost two reams of paper each month, using them to print out important mission documents, personal letters, and even photographs. Since the previous model was designed by Epson, the company passed the opportunity again when approached by NASA.
According to Collectspace.com, Stephen Hunter, NASA‘s manager for space station computer resources at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas said, “If you think about it in terms of its age, the printer can vote. And that is just the time we’ve had it on orbit. If you add in the years of development, it’s probably closer to 21, so the Epson printer can probably step up to any bar and order a drink.”
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“I use that analogy because while the printers have worked well, the maintenance for them has just become too hard for us now,” Hunter added. “So the decision became either we’re going to upgrade our printing capability or we just weren’t going to print anymore.”