Task 1: Water Reclamation System for International Space Station

Task Sponsor:  NASA

Background Information

Currently, the International Space Station (ISS) employs a life support system which utilizes a water reclamation system. The life support systems on the ISS have been in development for over forty years and consists of managing the air, food, and water, as well as monitoring atmospheric pressure, waste management, and fire detection and suppression (NASA.gov). These many features all make up three components of the life support systems which are environmental monitoring, atmosphere management, and water management. Although the technology of the life support system has been functioning for a long period of time, in recent years, NASA has detected a buildup of various organic compounds within the ISS system. These organic compounds consist of dimethylsilanediol, ethanol, Isopropanol, trimethylsilanol, 2-butanone, methanol, and acetone (Wallace, et al 2014). The most concerning of this group based on quantity are dimethylsilanediol, ethanol, and methanol (Wallace, et al 2014). Initially, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) used a monitoring system to observe the levels of Total Organic Carbon (TOC) (Ramanathan, James, & McCoy, 2012). NASA initially planned on keeping the TOC levels to below 3mg/L, however, the readings were shown to be encroaching on that upper limit ((Ramanathan, James, & McCoy, 2012).

Problem Statement

NASA has designed a solution to filter the dimethylsilanediol from the environment of the ISS by replacing the Multifiltration Beds within the filter, however, not much progress has been gained on methanol and ethanol (Rector et al, 2014). The mission for your team, if you are willing to accept it, will consist of developing a method of removing trace levels of methanol and ethanol from the recycled water supply to drop the TOC levels to below 3mg/L.

Design Considerations

  • The International Space Station operates in microgravity so your filtration system should not be dependent on gravity
  • The closed system aspect of the ISS requires the system to function with little energy or mass
  • Achieving higher water recovery ratios will be more beneficial to the ISS crew
  • The resulting water must be safe for human consumption
  • Resupply mass is expensive so fully regenerative solutions are preferred.

Bench-Scale Demonstration

Your team will present a bench-scale demonstration in which you will prepare a functional model. The presentation will consist of the full package representing technical, analytical, and financial performance results of your design. Judges will be scoring each team on how well they complete each aspect of this task.

Written Report Requirements

The written report should demonstrate your team’s insight into the full scope of the issue that you have chosen and include all aspects of the problem and your proposed solution. The report will be evaluated for quality of writing, organization, clarity, reason, and coherence. Standards for publications in technical journals apply. In addition to the listed requirements, your report must address in detail the items highlighted in the Problem Statement, Design Considerations, and Evaluation Criteria.

Evaluation Criteria

Your proposed solution will be evaluated on the following:

  • Technical fundamentals, performance, safety and other issues stated in the problem statement
  • Potential for real-life implementation
  • Thoroughness and quality of the economic analysis
  • Originality, innovativeness, functionality, ease of use, maintainability, reliability, and affordability of the proposed technology
  • How well the bench-scale represents your full scale design concept

The quality of your treated water – the bench-scale processed water will be evaluated for treated water volume, separation efficiency, and time to process