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090628-F-638 | by Lance Cheung
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Darrell Richards takes a hourly temperature reading on June 28, 2009, at the flash desalination plant of the 45th Space Wing, Detachment 2, Ascension Auxiliary Air Field, Ascension Island, South Atlantic Ocean. Mr. Richards is a desalination plant operator with the Computer Sciences Raytheon. The flash desalination process starts with saline (salt) water heated by a steam boiler (not seen) and then piped into a series of 8 vessels inside each of the two components (Richards is checking), 16 total vessels. On the left, highlighted with red light is the first stage where the temperature is hottest, at approximately 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Each vessel has less pressure; the change causes flash boiling without the need to supply additional heat. The fresh water vapor is captured and in the upper part of the chamber and is piped into the water system. At the cooler/ low-pressure end, highlighted in blue light, a flow meter indicates 340 gallons of water is being produced each minute. The desalination plant is designed to produce 30,000 gallons of clean fresh water every day. Out the bottom, brine is piped to an island runoff. In the near future, a reverse osmosis process will replace this with even greater efficiency and economy. This current system is part of the award winning self-sufficient capabilities of this Space Command site and facilities. Their solutions include hybrid wind/diesel energy production and wastewater treatment that results in drinkable water. The mission of Det. 2 is support of eastern range space launches by collecting and disseminating radar, telemetry and tracking data. It is also the last emergency runway for the Space Shuttle before entering orbit. Ascension island is 35 square miles in a remote island location midway between Brazil and Angola. The nearest country is Liberia - 1000 miles away. "It is exciting to see this base operate in a "green" environment day-to-day. It is cost effective and at the same time, protects our environment without interfering with any of our various missions down here. Going "green" has actually helped us become more efficient providing power, and water to the air field and the base" said Major Jay Block, commander of Detachment 2. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)


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Taken on June 28, 2009