Water recycling and quality control

Water being the largest life support consumable by mass aboard manned space infrastructures, water recovery will become absolutely mandatory to decrease the cost for resupply of long-duration missions.
Also, safety aspects would benefit from a significantly-decreased dependency on resupply for long-range missions.

Typical waste-water streams likely to be used for water recovery are:

  • condensate from the cabin temperature and humidity control system
  • hygiene waters from personal hygiene and from dish and clothes washing units
  • CO2 reduction water produced by air revitalisation systems
  • urine
  • phase change water from the stabilisation of trash and faeces by desiccation and
  • experiment/laboratory water including evapo-transpiration water from experimental or food production green-houses
Problems for recovering water from the various sources by a regenerative system are typically linked to the presence of low molecular weight volatile compounds difficult to remove either by phase-change or by membrane technologies, to the presence of fouling compounds and, in all cases, to the presence of specific microflora liable to contaminate the water recovery system.

Studies dealing with water recovery undertaken by ESA have demonstrated the excellent potential of membrane-based technologies for purifying waste waters such as hygiene water and condensation water.

Successive studies have been undertaken by ESA-ESTEC which have demonstrated the excellent adaptation of membrane technologies to produce potable/hygiene water from low polluted waste waters such as shower and condensation waters.
Last update: 18 November 2007

In depth

 •  More information about water recycling (http://www.esa.int/TEC/ECLS/SEMNSXU681F_0.html)
 •  The test installation (http://www.esa.int/TEC/ECLS/SEMO4Q8RR1F_0.html)
 •  Water recycling flow chart (http://www.esa.int/TEC/ECLS/SEMQ5Q8RR1F_0.html)
 •  Final design (http://www.esa.int/TEC/ECLS/SEMT6Q8RR1F_0.html)