PAC Seals Meals for Space Travel
Packaging Aids Corporation (PAC) has become an important part of the NASA space meal program. All food for the NASA space program is vacuum packaged. The majority of the thermostabilized foods, which comprise approximately one quarter of the menu items offered, are packed by PAC’s VMS 153V. NASA purchased PAC’s VMS 153V, vertical vacuum packaging machine to pack food for space travel.
NASA has been vacuum sealing food since the Gemini Program in the 1960s. Since NASA’s purchase of PAC’s VMS 153V their productivity in meal packaging has improved dramatically. Sealing up to 250 meals a day, NASA is now able to seal three meals in the time it used to take to seal one.
NASA used to use a regular seal bar that was tilted so the pouch could be sealed vertically with no vacuum and held in place by hand. NASA purchased the VMS 153V which is the vertical version of the VMS 153. This machine allows NASA to stand up three pouches inside and pull a vacuum. This increased their productivity and allowed the removal of the majority of headspace from the pouch.
Food is just as important in space as it is on earth. NASA follows dietary guidelines for healthy eating. There are 60 different meals NASA produces at its Texas A&M facility, such as seafood gumbo, homestyle potatoes and bread pudding. The food is cooked, put in pouches and sealed, keeping all bacteria out, then thermal stabilized in a retort. The sealed meals can last two to five years without refrigeration.
The VMS 153V is ideal for applications with products that have high moisture content such as food requiring the need to be sealed in pouches that stand up vertically.
“For special sealing needs such as NASA’s, Packaging Aids Corporation is able to provide the perfect solution,” says Serge Berguig, president of PAC.
Packaging Aids Corporation (PAC), based out of San Rafael, California, is comprised of three long-time packaging machinery companies. Member companies include Vertrod, creator of thermal impulse sealing; Audion Automation which makes automatic baggers, shrink and skin packaging machines; Converting Technology Inc., which manufactures a wide variety of stock and pre-printed bags; and Packaging Aids Corporation which manufactures vacuum gas flush sealers, vacuum chambers, and specialty bag sealers since 1962.