After Nearly 20 years, the Space Station is Getting a Printer Upgrade

DooKey

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The astronauts in the ISS have been printing 1000 pages a month off of two printers ever since the ISS has been inhabited. However, they are finally getting replacements for their Epson 800 Inkjet printers. Yes, you read that right. The latest is an HP ENVY Zero-Gravity printer and it's getting ready to head on up to the ISS. I can't imagine the frustration the astronauts were dealing with when they had to print on the old dinosaur printers.

"When the printer was new, it was like 2000-era tech and we had 2000-era laptop computers. Everything worked pretty good," recalled NASA Astronaut Don Pettit, who brought the first printer up to the ISS. But "the printer’s been problematic for the last five or six years," said Pettit who's spent a total of one year on the station.
 
I can't imagine the frustration the astronauts were dealing with when they had to print on the old dinosaur printers.

Oh my god the world is burning. They have to deal with older printers that have a similar resolution to today's printers! Horrors!

Yes I'm poking fun at your statement (all in good jest) But by that statement you sound young. Old doesn't mean outdated or not useful.

My HP 7950 9 tank is still regarded as the best home printer ever made for pro-sumer photo prints (especially black and white) It's parts are wearing down, but it's still better than everything else available today for home.
 
I’m still at a loss of why they need to print anything at all. I read the article, but even what they use it for could be replaced by a monitor or e-reader of some sort.
 
I’m still at a loss of why they need to print anything at all. I read the article, but even what they use it for could be replaced by a monitor or e-reader of some sort.
Monitors and e-readers require power. Printed paper is still there when they have a loss of power, for some reason. It might be heavy, but as with everything in space, there are multiple redundancies relying on old, proven technologies.
 
My company holds on to printers almost this long and we don't have to pay the cost of shipping the replacements into orbit...
 
Saw the title and was thinking they were going to get a fancy 3D printer so they could make whatever part they need up there.
 
Monitors and e-readers require power. Printed paper is still there when they have a loss of power, for some reason. It might be heavy, but as with everything in space, there are multiple redundancies relying on old, proven technologies.

The power a printer uses to print one page would last weeks on an e-reader. Not to mention the weight of the paper and ink cartridges plus the mess a zero G ink spill might cause
 
I’m still at a loss of why they need to print anything at all. I read the article, but even what they use it for could be replaced by a monitor or e-reader of some sort.

Procedures change and the most reliable way of finishing off a procedural checklist is by paper and pencil. When jet liners have to go through emergency procedures, they pull out the manual which is manually printed for the checklist of actions. When I do a punch list for release and things get hectic, a paper punch list allows me to amend notes quickly. And computers fail all the time in harsh environments.
 
wonder how many times they reprint docs, as you can't exactly store docs in the station itself.
and paper ain't light.
 
Procedures change and the most reliable way of finishing off a procedural checklist is by paper and pencil. When jet liners have to go through emergency procedures, they pull out the manual which is manually printed for the checklist of actions. When I do a punch list for release and things get hectic, a paper punch list allows me to amend notes quickly. And computers fail all the time in harsh environments.

I'm with you there, except that they should have a printed manual on hand already, and not need to print another. At least for emergency purposes. Sure, maybe some revisions, but I'm still liking the whole e-reader idea. For the basic epaper black and white style they can last weeks on standby, sip power in general, and I think they could make them robust enough to withstand the environment. We are talking about global space agencies here. Not saying they shouldn't have a printer at all, but they shouldn't be using it 90-95% of the time. Then again, I'm not an astronaut or a member of any space agency, so what do I know. :D
 
i wonder why an inkjet. i wonder if the toner from a laser was shown to float around and potentially cause issues with things. like how they dont have regular bread because of the crumbs
 
i wonder why an inkjet. i wonder if the toner from a laser was shown to float around and potentially cause issues with things. like how they dont have regular bread because of the crumbs

My first guess would be toner as you've said. Second guess would be maybe it uses more power (though I'm not sure on that one given roughly equivalent modern machines).
 
My first guess would be toner as you've said. Second guess would be maybe it uses more power (though I'm not sure on that one given roughly equivalent modern machines).

There's the question of waste toner, where does it go, and does it float all over the place? or changing the drum or fuser eventually. Toner cartridges, at least older ones, only require a careless shake to spread toner all over as well. Also, is colour required? because that adds a bunch of other wear parts as well - usually drums for each toner colour (CYMK). Lasers also have a large initial power draw when warming up. Ink jet printers, just, need new cartridges - and possibly a print head. most of the other components will last longer than the average human under normal print load, especially if they've stuck to brass or high grade plastics for the moving parts.

I would think that their best bet would be something like one of the wax based printers that operate with soy wax cubes. plus, if you run out of food in space, you can always eat them too.
 
i wonder why an inkjet. i wonder if the toner from a laser was shown to float around and potentially cause issues with things. like how they dont have regular bread because of the crumbs

Might have to do with the fact laser's produce Ozone which is toxic. In a confined space that would be a no-no.
 
Oh my god the world is burning. They have to deal with older printers that have a similar resolution to today's printers! Horrors!

Yes I'm poking fun at your statement (all in good jest) But by that statement you sound young. Old doesn't mean outdated or not useful.

My HP 7950 9 tank is still regarded as the best home printer ever made for pro-sumer photo prints (especially black and white) It's parts are wearing down, but it's still better than everything else available today for home.

Totally agree with you about the capabilities/quality of printers not having changed much, but what HAS changed a lot is how we connect them, compatibility etc. Not sure with this model if it's still able to be used today, plus - what's the story with cartridge availability?
 
My company holds on to printers almost this long and we don't have to pay the cost of shipping the replacements into orbit...

Yeah, but the carrying costs to keep a fleet of old printers in service can be out of this world! (pun intended)
 
Totally agree with you about the capabilities/quality of printers not having changed much, but what HAS changed a lot is how we connect them, compatibility etc. Not sure with this model if it's still able to be used today, plus - what's the story with cartridge availability?

USB->LPT are still available quite readily. The cartridges and replacement parts is a big question.

Any way, most printers still use the PCL5 print language and that is pretty much universally supported. It's been this way for well over a decade now.
 
Saw the title and was thinking they were going to get a fancy 3D printer so they could make whatever part they need up there.

The stronger the material used to form the structure, the more toxic the solvent base is initially, apparently... don't think they want all that toxic crap in an enclosed space.. last winter there were over a dozen news articles about people killing themselves by using a 3D printer without sufficient ventilation...
 
It's irony, but the printer I miss the most is a 1990 era fan fold paper wide format band printer. It made reading and editing, commenting code so much easier. You could print the code bracket lines to see where code blocks began and end and with fan fold paper it was just that much easier.

I know I know, good programmers don't create subroutines with many lines and deeply nested blocks. But not everyone is a good programmer.
 
The stronger the material used to form the structure, the more toxic the solvent base is initially, apparently... don't think they want all that toxic crap in an enclosed space.. last winter there were over a dozen news articles about people killing themselves by using a 3D printer without sufficient ventilation...

That is filament type. And some filaments are worse than others. The 3D Stereo Lithography is vastly superior in terms of resolution and no fumes. HOWEVER you have to have a liquid bath from which the lasers to shoot at. It would get to be real tricky in space to remove all that liquid before removing said part.
 
They are probably replacing it because the PARALLEL PORT plug broke... :p
 
The ISS using ink-jet? They must have VERY good reasons for it and for it to continue with something new. Well... hopefully.

It just seems odd that in space... where we have all this crazy advanced tech... we're still printing on paper (and a 1000 pages a month!? Sure - that's just over two full boxes of paper a year. but... what do they need to print all the time?) And I thought trying to encourage reducing the number of printers (and amount of printing) at work was a difficult enough job. imho - this could also just be the scientists "preference" with absolutely nothing to do with actual efficiency or usability - just that they've always done it this way.
 
One advantage of paper is making of custom check lists that are used and then saved. Much easier for MC to create a pdf checklist and email to ISS for the crew to print, use and place in the log when done then to create, test, certify and send up a one use app for an e - reader.

Also making custom placards with new warning/procedures for equipment.
 
One advantage of paper is making of custom check lists that are used and then saved. Much easier for MC to create a pdf checklist and email to ISS for the crew to print, use and place in the log when done then to create, test, certify and send up a one use app for an e - reader.

Also making custom placards with new warning/procedures for equipment.

Flight crew check lists are still physical boards, helps reduce errors and 'skips'
 
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