ESA’s Advanced Closed-Loop System (ACLS) recycles carbon dioxide on the Space Station into oxygen. For years oxygen on the Space Station was extracted from water that is brought from Earth, a costly and limiting drawback. The new system recycles half of the carbon dioxide thereby saving about 400 l of water that needs to be launched to the International Space Station each year.
The facility is a Space Station-standard 2-m tall rack. Although the system is made to demonstrate the new technology, it will be part of the Space Station’s life support system and produce oxygen for three astronauts, and operated for at least 1 year over 2 years to demonstrate its performance and reliability.
The system traps carbon dioxide from the air as it passes through small beads made from a unique amine developed by ESA for human spaceflight. Steam is then used to extract the carbon dioxide and process it in a Sabatier reactor to create methane and water. Electrolysis then splits the water back into oxygen while the methane is vented into space.