A Prototype Early Planetary Organic Processor Assembly (OPA) Based on Dual-Stage Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor (AnMBR) for Fecal and Food Waste Treatment and Resource Recovery

Bullard T., Smith A., Delgado-Navarro M., Uman A. E. , Hoque B., Bair R., ...More

50th International Conference on Environmental Systems, Minnesota, United States Of America, 12 - 15 July 2021, pp.1-9

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: Minnesota
  • Country: United States Of America
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-9


Long-duration, deep-space exploration and habitation missions demand robust and reliable technologies to ensure crew health, safety, and mission success. Local food production will be essential for crew nutrition and morale. However, at $10,000/lb, the payload costs and mass/volume limitations to transport and provide the necessary resources, including fertilizer, for an anticipated 30-month mission become challenging over time. For mission success and sustainability, the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) of the near future will need to recover resources from all “waste” sources and be near-closed loop. Organic wastes (e.g., fecal and food) offer a renewable source of C, N, P, water and other trace elements necessary to sustain crop production. However, these high solid wastes are often difficult to treat due to factors including heterogeneity, complexity, high organic strength, and the presence of pathogens. To date, there is no flight-ready technology capable of treating mixed organic wastes, creating a technology gap for future space missions. To address this need, a prototype Organic Processor Assembly (OPA) was developed through collaboration between the University of South Florida (USF) and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The OPA is based on the anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR), a hybrid technology coupling high-rate anaerobic digestion with membrane filtration. The system is designed for an early planetary base (EPB) scenario to aid in closing the resource recovery loop and decrease resupply dependence. This presentation discusses initial research pertaining to: 1) design challenges in maximizing hydraulic/organic throughput and Reliability, Availability, Maintainability, and Safety (RAMS) while minimizing mass and volume; 2) create capabilities for treating simulated high solids waste under steady and non-steady state conditions; and 3) measure solids performance parameter(s). Future research and development pertaining to further optimization on system operation, performance, and expanded treatment capabilities are presented.