New Water Reclamation System Headed for Duty on Space Station

May 12, 2008

International Space Station crews soon will have a new water reclamation system that will recycle wastewater, allowing up to six crew members to live aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The latest addition to the station's life support system departs today from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for final flight preparations.

The new Water Recovery System, or WRS, is the second part of a comprehensive life support system for the station. It is scheduled to fly aboard space shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 targeted for later this year. The first part of the system, the Oxygen Generation System, was launched on shuttle Discovery in July 2006. The two systems are part of NASA's Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System, or ECLSS, for the station.

"Recycling will be an essential part of daily life for future astronauts, whether on board the space station or living on the moon," said Mike Suffredini, the station program manager. "Delivering this hardware is an important step in achieving the station's full potential, allowing for additional crew members and more scientific research."

By recycling, the system reduces the dependence on Earth resupply by cutting the amount of water and consumables needed to be launched by about 15,000 pounds, or 6,800 kilograms, a year.

"As early as the late 1960's we knew sustaining life in space would require recycling water and oxygen," said Bob Bagdigian, ECLSS project manager. "A number of us have experienced the entire lifecycle of this technology, all the way from early ideas to implementation. Knowing that we will soon see this system completed, gives us great pride."

Through a series of chemical treatment processes and filters, the Water Recovery System creates water clean enough to drink. In fact, part of the same process has been used in Third World countries to produce drinkable water.

A distillation process is used to recover water from urine. The process occurs within a rotating distillation assembly that compensates for the absence of gravity, aiding in the separation of liquids and gases in space. Once distilled, the water from the urine processor is combined with other wastewaters and delivered to the water processor for treatment.

The water processor removes free gas and solid materials such as hair and lint, before the water goes through a series of filtration beds for further purification. Any remaining organic contaminants and microorganisms are removed by a high-temperature catalytic reaction. These rigorous treatment processes create water that meets stringent purity standards for human consumption.

Engineers at Marshall and at Hamilton Sundstrand Space Systems International Inc., Windsor Locks, Conn., led the design and development of the Water Recovery System.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Cod bones from Mary Rose reveal globalized fish trade in Tudor England

Related Stories

CARS: A brand-by-brand look at new 2016 models

September 8, 2015

The 2016 model year has plenty of workhorses, including new versions of the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Titan pickups, Chevrolet Malibu and Kia Optima sedans and the Honda Civic small car.

Report analyzes new option for hurricane protection

September 1, 2015

Past discussions of hurricane-protection options for the Houston-Galveston region have focused on constructing a floodgate at the mouth of either Galveston Bay or the Houston Ship Channel. In its latest analysis of options ...

Recommended for you

Dead comets and near-earth encounters

October 13, 2015

Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are asteroids or comets whose orbits sometimes bring them close to the Earth, thereby posing a potentially threat. The asteroid that struck Chelyabinsk last year was an NEO about 40 meters in diameter. ...

What happens when your brain can't tell which way is up?

October 13, 2015

In space, there is no "up" or "down." That can mess with the human brain and affect the way people move and think in space. An investigation on the International Space Station seeks to understand how the brain changes in ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.