The International Space Station gets its first space refrigerator

The CU Boulder designed device will revolutionize the orbital dining experience.

CU Boulder

Being an astronaut is great so long as you don’t mind sucking your dinner out of a pouch and munching on freeze dried ice cream given that fresh foodstuffs have traditionally lacked the necessary multi-year shelf stability. Thankfully, the days of rehydrated snacks will soon be over thanks to an ingenious refrigeration system from the University of Colorado, Boulder, dubbed Freezer Refrigerator Incubator Device for Galley and Experimentation (aka the FRIDGE).

The units were designed by BioServe Space Technologies at UCB and are only about the size of a standard microwave. “There are no rotating parts, no fans, which is really big for reliability,” Robby Aaron, an aerospace master’s student working on the project, said in an April press statement. “A normal fridge on Earth is also hot in the back. We can’t have that in space. Warm air doesn't rise in microgravity; it stays stationary and can cause things to overheat, so you must get rid of heat some other way. ISS has a water-cooling system we’ll be tapped into to directly dump the waste heat and keep the system cool.”

So far, NASA is employing eight of the units. The two currently winging their way to the ISS aboard the Cygnus NG-14 robotic resupply craft will be reserved for food — both perishable meals delivered from the planet and fresh produce produced by the station’s hydroponic garden — as well as medicine. The others, which are in use already aboard the station, are utilized in chilling temperature-sensitive test materials.