The question Why did Apollo spacecraft use both AC and DC equipment? Still used in present and future designs? and especially the answer there reminded me of something I'd seen in the YouTube video One of the Most Detailed ISS Tour which also accompanied the question How do iPads on the ISS know which way is “up” for their users?.

At about 03:40 in the video, astronaut Steven Swanson introduces with a bit of humor the stowed, and presumably new, AC version of the vacuum cleaner used on the ISS:

We do have one of the most important pieces of equipment on the International Space Station hidden up here. This is the vacuum cleaner, and it’s the AC version. And we say in NASA-talk that this is the only piece of equipment that doesn’t suck on the International Space Station. But this is actually much better than the old one, so we actually like it, and it’s nothing too fancy, just a vacuum cleaner, and we have to use it every week to keep the place clean.

Was there an earlier DC version of the vacuum cleaner? If so, what is the reason for the "upgrade"?

I'm also curious, are there standard type A or B wall sockets distributed around the ISS to plug things in to 120 VAC?

AC vacuum cleaner on International Space Station

type A plug type B plug

above: Type A & B wall sockets. (am I the only one experiencing mild Pareidolia here?)

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    $\begingroup$ The old one didn't ride as well. cnet.com/news/… $\endgroup$ May 30, 2018 at 1:10
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder if they had a requirement that any DC motors be brush-less. $\endgroup$
    – amI
    Mar 20, 2019 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ @amI that's an interesting question! Considering the number of motors on the ISS used in pumps, fans, actuators and robots there may indeed be rules against brushed motors. Why not ask that as a new question? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 20, 2019 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ About your experience of pareidolia… You’re not the only one… Hydro-Québec, the electrical power company of the Canadian province, even had an ad running for a while where the electric sockets were animated characters. $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2021 at 4:15
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    $\begingroup$ @PierrePaquette that sounds absolutely frightening. update: I'm sitting in a library at this moment and you've made me laugh out loud! Curse you, YouTube! :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 25, 2021 at 4:23

1 Answer 1


Boiling this down to

1a) Was there an earlier DC version of the ISS' DC vacuum cleaner ...

1b) ... if so why was it replaced with an AC version?

2a) Are there “wall sockets” throughout the ISS where it's plugged in...

2b) ... if so, what are they like?

I can answer some of these.

1a) Yes, there was an earlier DC version of the ISS vacuum cleaner.

It looked like this...

enter image description here

And ran off of 120 VDC. It was a wet/dry vacuum, and included a hair clipper attachment.

The very best thing about this information source is that it tells us the contact person for the vacuum is named "Bum Jacinto".


2a) Are there “wall sockets” throughout the ISS where it's plugged in...


2b) ... if so, what are they like?

The DC power outlets in the US side of the ISS are < start rant> overly complicated like everything in the ISS and are < end rant> called Utility Outlet Panels, they look like this. The actual "sockets" receive cannon plugs and are behind the two gray threaded caps secured by wires.

enter image description here


AC is provided by inverter boxes made by Exeltech.

enter image description here

However, all that being said, there is one of your questions I cannot answer, and that is why the vacuum cleaner was upgraded.

Unless that is, as I said in a comment, because it rides well.

enter image description here

Link to video.

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    $\begingroup$ We have data on "rides better" and that's good enough for me, so let's call this answered until such time that we decide to revive Edison and Tesla and let them re-litigate DC vs AC. Thanks for the research! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 17, 2018 at 3:24
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh all these years later I realized I had mixed up 120 V AC and DC in this answer. Profuse apologies. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2021 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ We can only hope that no vacuum cleaners blew up on the ISS because they were using Space SE as a reference! Fond farewell to the Gilda Radner reference :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 19, 2021 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh especially mortifying because it says VDC right on the device faceplate facepalm $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2021 at 23:15

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