Changing gravity level can be a problem for flows of fluids, gasses, heat and for structural loads. Much equipment designed for Earth gravity fail in microgravity (even light bulbs and ballpoint pens).

But how is it the other way around? Do microgravity life support systems in general work also at 1g, maybe simply because it is practical for manufacturing and testing them? Is for example the ISS reliant on life support systems which would not work if we built a copy of the ISS on Earth' surface? And the same for the space shuttle, could a crew have spent a week inside it in 1g? (Consider only difference in gravity, no other environmental factors).

ADDITION: Would the coriolis effect and gradient of acceleration in a centrifuge or rotating spacecraft cause significant problems to mechanical equipment, such as flows of heat and fluids and moving parts?


2 Answers 2


A strange corollary that demonstrates unexpected issues in low-G, is the water filtration systems, that process urine on the ISS. They were getting clogged in orbit, because the astronauts were losing much more calcium than when under a full G, and it was excreted in their urine, and was calcifying the filtration system.

So it could work in 1G as well, and if fact would work better, since less calcium to cause a problem.

  • $\begingroup$ Am not sure this answers the question. You are talking about a change in inputs and a converse effect. If the inputs stay the same, will 1g environment break/make untestable any of the ECLSS items? $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2015 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ @DeerHunter "if the inputs stay the same" is sort of my point, There are unintended changes from 0 to 1 G that change the inputs, because of the change. The inputs to the Urine collection system stay the same. Urine. But in orbit, the astronauts bodies release more calcium due to lower stress on bones. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Aug 4, 2015 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ That's an interesting observation. Microgravity systems have to deal with how we (and our biom) react to that environment. Clogging up the sewers by peeing the bones away wasn't my first thought, but there it is. Seems like an inconvenient but survivable problem on a Mars trip. But what else can go wrong? $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Aug 7, 2015 at 14:08

All space shuttle life support systems worked in 1G (in fact, in 3G) because the shuttle experienced those environments for extended periods of time. The ASCII "graphic" on page 23 of the Deorbit Prep Checklist shows the ECLS configuration for all mission phases.

At least some of the ISS life support systems wouldn't work "out of the box" in 1G - I am thinking specifically about a device that distills waste water, which has to include a rotating centrifuge to get the distillation process to work. However, a device to do this in 1G would actually be simpler.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure that waste water distiller doesn't work in 1g too? Centrifuges can work on Earth, even when unnecessary. I thought that maybe most life support on the Shuttle was activated only while in microgravity. That the crew lived on borrowed air during the short launch and landing episodes with g-forces. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Aug 2, 2015 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ I don't believe the UPA would work in 1 G, but I could be wrong about that. It seems highly optimized for free fall. ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20030066933.pdf $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2015 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ I would expect that all of the equipment would have a requirement to be testable in 1 G on Earth. You don't launch something to ISS without being able test it first. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Adler
    Aug 2, 2015 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ The link in the comments ralks about testing it in the Vomit Comet and on shuttle missions. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2015 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ @LocalFluff The 3D printer was tested on Earth first, but it was on parabolic flights to simulate the microgravity. I'd wager, though, that the 3D printer was tested in a 1g environment before it was tested in simulated microgravity. BEAM has been tested on Earth as well. The tests in space are follow up tests. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Aug 7, 2015 at 13:18

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