Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have achieved a 98% water recovery rate with a technique that would make a heart attack a little louder: they’ve managed to recycle a senior astronaut.
of Water recycling Success is a milestone for low-orbit missions that aim to provide the basic needs of astronauts without a resupply mission. This means recycling or regenerating things like food, air and water.
in terms of International space station (ISS), each team member needs one gallon of water each day for drinking, food preparation, and hygiene such as brushing teeth. A good goal when it comes to water is to recover 98% of the initial water that crews take with them into space when a long-duration mission begins.
“This is a very important step in the evolution of life support systems,” said the team Johnson Space Center Christopher Brown, who manages the life support systems on the ISS, in A press release. “Let’s say you start with 100 pounds of water. Then you lose 2 pounds, and the other 98% just keeps going in and out. Keeping that running is a pretty amazing feat.”
The water recovery phase was achieved when the environmental control and life support system (ECLS) showed an improved urine processing unit (UPA). Refreshing water from urine using vacuum distillation.
The ECLSS is made up of a combination of hardware, including a water recovery system that collects waste water and advanced dehumidifiers that remove moisture from the ISS air through the crew’s breath and sweat. This collected water is sent to the Water Processor Assembly (WPA), which then produces potable water.
The UPA element of ECLSS cleans the urine, but brine is produced as a byproduct of this process, and that still has unused water. A brine processor assembly (BPA) is added to the UPA to remove this residual wastewater. Demonstrating its performance in space microgravity, BPA pushed ECLSS to the 98% target.
“Prior to BPA, our overall water recovery was between 93 and 94%,” said ECLS Water Subsystems Manager Jill Williamson. “Now we have shown that we can reach (a) total water recovery of 98%, thanks to the brine processor.”
BPA takes the brine created by UPA and passes it through a series of special membranes to introduce the water content into the dry air that evaporates. This creates moist air that does not match the breath of the ISS crew, and this can be collected by ECLSS humidifiers.
Like any other collected wastewater, this is treated by the WPA through a series of special filters and a catalytic reactor, which breaks down any small contaminants that may remain. Sensors check for water that does not meet the standards sent to recycle the water. Iodine is added to the receiving water to prevent the growth of microbes, and the water is then stored for later use by the workers.
If this raises the question, “They are ours Astronauts urinate in spaceThe answer is clear. Not at all. As the team points out, water produced aboard the ISS is superior to municipal water systems here on Earth.
“The processing is basically the same as some terrestrial water distribution systems, just in microgravity,” Williamson pointed out. “The workers aren’t drinking urine; they’re drinking water that’s been bottled, filtered, and filtered so it’s cleaner than what we drink here on Earth.”
“We have a lot of processes and a lot of soil testing to make sure we’re producing safe drinking water,” Williamson added.
ECLSS systems are carefully tested to ensure that they are working as intended and that each element will work for a long time without requiring much maintenance.
The 98 percent milestone is a positive development for future space missions, allowing astronauts to spend more time in space during extended stays on the Moon and missions to Mars.
“As we move beyond low Earth orbit, the recovery ECLSS systems become even more important. Not being able to resupply during the probe means we need to be able to access all the resources the crew needs on these missions,” Williamson said. “When we have to transport water and oxygen, the science that gets added to the launch vehicle increases. Reliable, robust recovery systems mean the crew doesn’t have to worry about it and can focus on the real purpose of their mission.”