British astronaut Tim Peake is training for a late-2015 mission to the International Space Station, and has been posting photos of his adventures online. A recent photo set shows off an Earth-copy training set of one of the tool boxes in use aboard the space station.
Larger ISS Training Tools Photos(via Tim Peake’s Flickr)
This probably isn’t the only tool set on the ISS, but it’s interesting to peek inside nonetheless.
These tools are meant for IVA use (intravehicular activities), which would involve regular maintenance and operations work.
The tool box is actually a lot deeper than I would have thought, giving me ideas for a future project. As one would think, the tool box has a locking door, which you can see swung out of the way in the photos.
All but one of the drawers feature a double-layer of foam that is custom cut to fit to each tool. This is presumably done for tool control and to prevent FOD, or foreign object damage.
First Drawer: Wrenches
It looks like the tool kit comes with a complete set of inch and metric combination wrenches. Each wrench has a fabric pull-out tab, for easier tool retrieval. I can’t identify the tools in the front right corner, but they look like crowfoot sockets.
Second Drawer: Ratchets, Sockets, Drive Accessories
The kit comes with a full set of inch and metric sockets in 1/4″ and 3/8″ drive sizes. There are standard and flex-head ratchets in each size, what look to be torque wrenches, extensions, adapters, universal joints, and a full set of inch and metric hex-bit sockets.
The ratchets look like Snap-on, but it’s hard to identify the other tool brands.
Everything in this drawer is color-coded. Light blue is for 1/4″ drive tools, and light green for 3/8″ drive. With respect to the sockets, light blue and light green are inch sizes, dark blue and dark green are metric, and the adapters are gray.
Third Drawer: Screwdrivers and Specialty Sockets
There are fewer screwdrivers than I would have thought. I suppose most fixture fasteners on the ISS are going to be hex-head, and maybe slotted for quick adjustments. Phillips-head fasteners just don’t seem like they would work well in a zero-G environment.
Towards the back of the drawer are a couple of larger crowsfeet sockets.
Fourth Drawer: Pliers, Cutters, Tweezers
There are a few miniature pliers, wire cutters, wire strippers, locking pliers, hemostats, snap ring pliers, long retrieval forceps, and what looks to be a set of tweezers.
I spy Craftsman adjustable pliers, which I hope the ISS crew takes good care of, because it doesn’t look like Craftsman makes them anymore.
Fifth Drawer: Files, Dead Blow Hammer, Snips, Saw, Pry Bar
It looks like this is the everything that doesn’t fit in anywhere else drawer. It contains a file set, dead blow ball pein hammer, a couple of cold chisels, a long pry bar, a grounding wrist strap, tin snips, a miniature hacksaw, a large combination wrench, a small monkey wrench, 10’/3m tape measure, and what appears to be a flexible wire saw.
Most tools look like Snap-On with a few Craftsman thrown in there. Lufkin tape measure makes an appearance too. Cool set up, good find.
I have a mental image of a tool truck rolling into NASA and showing them all the newest tools. Probably not the truck’s most lucrative account but certainly the most interesting.
That’s awesome – I want one
Alan S. Blue
I’m thinking rule one would be “Metric darn it!” (Or SAE, whatever), and rule two would be “Make every nut accessible to either rachet or nutdriver.
That should eliminate the heaviest one-and-a-half shelves.
Are these off the shelf tools? I would imagine they would need light weight but strong tools that weigh a fraction of normal tools since weight is an issue going into space.
Many of them are off-the-shelf tools. Even the specialty ones are probably commercial products, as opposed to one-off designs.
Some of the tools might be stainless steel, rather than chromed steel, to avoid the potential issues that could arise if the chrome plating begins to chip.
Heavier tools do mean higher lift-off costs, but lighter tools would mean other compromises and tradeoffs. It’s better to go with tried-and-true than save on launch costs only to find that a tool needs to be replaced later on.
I would not mind having that setup – especially with its foam organization!
LORDDiESEL (GJ Forum)
That’s pretty cool!
I don’t see any channellocks tho. How can you fix anything without a pair of nutbusters?
The long drawers are probably used due to the fact that they are in micro gravity, aka the weight of the tools doesnt cause the drawers to fail, or tip over the box.
That was the first thought I had too. It must be great not having to worry about how much drawer slides can support.
I’m with Alan on the fact that they should stick to metric or standard and you would think they would know exactly what sized nuts they have on everything so they would only take sizes they had on the ship. But I guess it is a good idea to be over prepared since snapon hasn’t launched their orbiting delivery truck yet. Haha that is cool to see that NASA uses tools I have in my garage.
The Russian hardware might all be metric, and NASA itself may have standardized on that for whatever its contractors build, but there’s enough commercial off-the-shelf hardware launched that they’re certainly going to need tools for both.
The most important tool seems to be missing: duct tape.
They use Kapton tape. Duct tape is flammable.
Good catch, Anton; duct tape does seem to be indispensable here on Earth, but I wonder if its properties of adhesion are as good (or possibly lessened) in a zero- gravity environment. Does anyone know the answer? Incidentally, what temperature is maintained in the ISS, which could also affect its ability to grip. I assume it might be on the cool side, to minimize bacterial growth. No doubt NASA developed a tape which would counter both of those issues.
I presume they have a small roll of the stuff somewhere onboard, but they definitely used duct tape in the past.
The duct tape used is called Kapton tape.
Well, they have that too, but they have both for different purposes.
This is definitely duct tape and not Kapton: http://spaceflight1.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-118/html/iss015e22143.html
They call duct tape “gray tape.” Kapton tape is different – it doesn’t leave residue behind.
A little past due here but…
I went to the link and zoomed in on the duct tape only to find that it faintly reads “CARGO PIT TAPE”.
I looked that up and got this:
“Polyken 225FR 12mil Premium Flame Retardant Duct Tape
A superior flame retardant polyethylene coated waterproof tape with an exceptionally aggressive adhesive to a variety of substrates including steel and plastic.”
Obviously not your garden variety ‘duck tape’.
I believe the reason for the tools each sitting In a foam cutout cut to its outline is not FOD, but 5S, which I assume is practiced on NASA space vehicles.
Old comment, but to add input- n.a.s.a. will follow standard military protocol, which calls for shadowing of all tool boxes for accountability and fod control. An errant socket could be am absolute disaster in a situation such as this. If it “helps” with productivity and efficiency, thats a great byproduct. But i can say with certainty its a safety issue.
Interesting that they have such a wide variety of spanner and socket sizes. The ISS is a highly controlled environment, you would think that they would only carry the spanner and socket sizes that are actually present there.
Transporting equipment into space is quite expensive, and even to save a few kilos would be well worth it. I would have thought they would limit the fasteners used to a small set of pre-defined sizes, either all metric or all imperial, not a combination of both. That way, the tool set would only need 4 or 5 different sized spanners. You could take multiples of each size, or different styles (short, long, offset spanners, etc). It’s not like you’re going to stumble onto an odd sized bolt up there.
Why would you assume all those sizes are not present on the station? Even if the main station doesnt have (insert size here) bolt, theres certainly no guarantee a widget that was delivered later doesnt have it.
A lot of different remarks, new learning. My military and college experiences point towards accessibility of components by opening access panels or by feel. Different sized tools can always help on the ISS especially with spacecraft having different nuts, bolts, and connectors.
Interesting that there don’t seem to be any knives in the kit. Yes, there are all sorts of snips, shears, and saws, but sometimes you really need a knife. I know for a fact that knives were taken on past missions, so I doubt that ‘knives are too dangerous in zero-G’, or anything like that. Maybe it’s simply that every astronaut carries their own?
It could just be that they’re in a separate location. This struck me as an infrequently used tool selection.
Each crew member has their own crew-deployed multitool, so no need for a knife in the toolbox. However, all the crew procedures call out a required tools list, and I’ve never seen the knife called for in one. It’s easier to cut one’s self accidentally with a knife than snips or shears, and NASA prioritizes risk mitigation.
NASA gets their tools from a company named “Proto Tools”. Husky and MAC Tools are made from the same forgings in the same plants as Proto Tools. Proto is unique because it goes through additional testing and certification because it is used by NASA as well as the military and some big industrial customers such as General Motors.
They use snap on/blue point as well. And of course, in the past they have used armstrong and a litany of others. Im surprised to see the craftsman tool in there.