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When the pee hit the fan: What SpaceX passengers didn’t mention about their private flight experience

Repeat incidents of loose toilet tubing leads engineers to check that capsules' internal structure integrity is still intact

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is rolled out to the launch pad for the next trip to the ISS. NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer are scheduled to launch on Oct. 31.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is rolled out to the launch pad for the next trip to the ISS. NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer are scheduled to launch on Oct. 31. Photo by Joel KOWSKY / NASA / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / NASA/Joel Kowsky" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by JOEL KOWSKY/NASA/AFP via Getty Images

SpaceX is under two tight and important deadlines this week: Not only is it preparing the launch of another of its Dragon capsules on Sunday to take four astronauts to the International Space Station, it is also fixing the embarrassing problem of a loose hose on a toilet, which has a tendency to spring liquid leaks into the interior.

In mid-September, when five private guests were in the air on the first-ever passenger flight, glue on a toilet tube came unsealed, spilling urine onto a fan and leaking under the floor. The incident also happened on another capsule, which has been docked at the International Space Station since April.

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The design flaw has apparently been fixed in the new Endurance capsule by welding the urine-flushing tube to its attachment point. Study continues on the other capsules to test the integrity of the tube and to ensure the spill didn’t weaken the docked capsule in any way, said William Gerstenmaier, a SpaceX vice-president who used to work for NASA. Crew rotation will see astronauts come back to Earth in November.

In the Dragon capsule docked at the space station, less urine had leaked under the floor panels than in the one that carried a billionaire and three others on a three-day flight, Gerstenmaier told the Associated Press . That may simply be due to the NASA-led crew only being in the capsule a day before docking at the space station. The capsule repairs will be completed later this week.

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The Oct. 31 launch will be SpaceX’s fourth of NASA astronauts, its fifth passenger flight and its 28th visit to the ISS. After NASA retired its shuttle fleet in 2011, it contracted SpaceX and Boeing to take crews to and from the space station. NASA astronauts piggybacked on Russian flights until SpaceX took over last year.

Boeing has yet to launch anyone. A repeat test flight of its Starliner capsule, without a crew, has been postponed until next year over valve trouble.

Once he launches atop SpaceX’s Falcon rocket, NASA says German astronaut Matthias Maurer will become the 600th person in space and U.S. crewmate Kayla Barron will be the 601st.

But, he said, “she and I will be together like No. 600. I was the lucky one that got the round number, but we will all have fun in space.”

Spacecraft commander and NASA astronaut Raja Chari said Tuesday that he has “complete confidence” in the repairs.