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To Infinity and Beyond! NASA Retires Space Program but Nilfisk Vacuums Keep Reaching for the Stars!

Posted on July 8, 2011

This morning, the final space shuttle launch lifted off from Cape Canaveral Florida. It is the end of an era and the space shuttle program as we know it today.

In yesterday’s USA Today, they featured an article titled “Unsung Heroes Kept Shuttle Flying.” The article spoke about folks like Craig Capdepon who for years has religioiusly sprayed insulating foam in every crevice around the fuel tank.

All in all, about 16,000 NASA employees have been laid off since the shuttle program announced its plans to retire its current fleet. The article also made us remember the decades-long role of Nilfisk in NASA’s space program. Check out the case study below from year’s past, (but still relevant today). NASA may be be retiring the current space program, as well as the use of their Nilfisk GM80 vacs for cleaning the launch pad, but the vacuums are still considered icons in thousands of important applications all over the globe! Plus, we’re pretty confident Nilfisk will be a part of the future space program, whatever the future holds.


A small industrial vacuum system (Nilfisk GM 80)  made by Nilfisk Industrial Vacuums plays several important roles in every Space Shuttle flight and has some equally important applications in the business and consumer worlds. 

The same vacuums that NASA uses to eliminate microscopic particles from the cargo bay and to remove hazardous beryllium dust from the shuttle’s brakes are being used to safeguard the health of earth bound creatures. 

On of the more “down to earth” uses of the Nilfisk vacuum system is the removal of asbestos dust from homes, plants, schools, office buildings and vehicle brake linings.  Its use in these situations is almost identical to its use by NASA in cleaning the brake system of the shuttle when it lands. 

The shuttle’s brakes happen to contain beryllium, not asbestos, but the principle is the same – the elimination of even the most minute particles which could be a hazard to human health. 

The Nilfisk asbestos removal system, which is being used extensively by contractors across the country eager to meet EPA safety standards, consists of the same type of equipment used by NASA to clean the shuttle’s brakes with an added scraper tool with hardened steel blades.  The tool loosens and scrapes sprayed-on asbestos directly into the Nilfisk vacuum.  The dust and debris is collected in a sealable bag, eliminating any hazard to the operator.  This same type of system is used by professional asbestos removal companies for the elimination of the hazardous product from the home. 

Another “down to earth” application of the Nilfisk vacuum is its role in alleviating some of the causes of allergic reactions to dust in the home. 

NASA spends as long as 56 hours cleaning every inch of the 60-foot long, 15-foot wide and 17-foot deep cargo bay to remove particles as small as 0.3 microns (one three-hundredth the size of a single human hair) – particles which could migrate during weightlessness into the shuttle’s micro-circuitry and cause “anomalies.” 

After hearing about NASA’s success with Nilfisk, some allergists have recognized that the thorough elimination of dust particles – not just dust you can see, but microscopic dust – can help alleviate the suffering of some of their patients.  They are recommending that their patients clean their homes just as thoroughly as NASA cleans the shuttle’s cargo bay – using the same Nilfisk vacuum cleaner that NASA uses.  Thus, we have one more example of how the space program benefits our daily lives.

So long NASA space program…until we reach for the stars again!