Cradle to Cradle model (courtesy of Zhiying)
Enabling & Support

Sustainable materials concepts

03/02/2017 643 views 3 likes
ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology / Shaping the Future
 Programme:  TRP Workplan  Achieved TRL:  2
 Reference:  T324-001QT  Closure:  2016
 Contractor(s):  Airbus DS (DE), Inspire AG (CH)

Materials to build spacecrafts serve to date entirely the mission purpose, with no concepts to make further use of them after mission life. Such concepts can add value especially to exploration missions if materials can be further utilized as biological or technical nutrients, i.e. recycled or converted into different and useful resources for other processes.

Study of sustainable materials concepts for exploration missions by two scenarios:

1.            Utilization of materials as biological nutrients (e.g. production CO2, CH4)

2.            Utilization of materials as technical nutrients by materials conversion and recycling

Based on a reference scenario for a lunar station a net disposable mass of ~ 100 t from disused spacecraft would be available after 9 years, dominated by Al and Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymers (CFRPs). A main challenge is the materials diversity and possibility for disassembly. Polymer materials as biological nutrients were considered whereas the process is generally considered lower TRL compared to technical recycling. Potential for the latter was shown for processing Al or thermoplastic composites.

Lunar Polygon mission (courtesy of NPO Lavochkin)
Lunar Polygon mission (courtesy of NPO Lavochkin)

It was demonstrated that if material could be at least partly recycled and processed on-site, a significant number of support flights can be saved for building greenhouses, habitats, or other infrastructure.

Further work
System considerations for design for recycling, experimental process demonstration

Related Links