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Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928


Exploration life support technology challenges for the Crew

Exploration Vehicle and future human missions
Harry W. Jones a,*, Mark H. Kliss b
N239-8, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
N239-15, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett field, CA 94035, USA

Received 6 August 2008; received in revised form 14 October 2009; accepted 19 October 2009


As NASA implements the U.S. Space Exploration Policy, life support systems must be provided for an expanding sequence of explo-
ration missions. NASA has implemented effective life support for Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station (ISS)
and continues to develop advanced systems. This paper provides an overview of life support requirements, previously implemented sys-
tems, and new technologies being developed by the Exploration Life Support Project for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and
Lunar Outpost and future Mars missions. The two contrasting practical approaches to providing space life support are (1) open loop
direct supply of atmosphere, water, and food, and (2) physicochemical regeneration of air and water with direct supply of food. Open
loop direct supply of air and water is cost effective for short missions, but recycling oxygen and water saves costly launch mass on longer
missions. Because of the short CEV mission durations, the CEV life support system will be open loop as in Apollo and Space Shuttle.
New life support technologies for CEV that address identified shortcomings of existing systems are discussed. Because both ISS and
Lunar Outpost have a planned 10-year operational life, the Lunar Outpost life support system should be regenerative like that for
ISS and it could utilize technologies similar to ISS. The Lunar Outpost life support system, however, should be extensively redesigned
to reduce mass, power, and volume, to improve reliability and incorporate lessons learned, and to take advantage of technology advances
over the last 20 years. The Lunar Outpost design could also take advantage of partial gravity and lunar resources.
Published by Elsevier Ltd. on behalf of COSPAR.

Keywords: Space life support; Life support systems; Life support technologies; Crew Exploration Vehicle; Lunar Outpost

1. Introduction requirements for life support. The Apollo, Space Shuttle,

and International Space Station (ISS) life support designs
NASA is pursuing the U.S. Space Exploration Policy provide candidate reference systems, but improvements
and planning a human return to the Moon and the explo- are possible and needed. NASA is developing advanced
ration of Mars. Human physiological needs define the life support systems to better implement the U.S. Space

Abbreviations: 2BMS, two bed molecular sieve; 4BMS, four bed molecular sieve; CEV, Crew Exploration Vehicle; CHX, condensing heat exchanger;
CM, crewmember; CM, Command Module (Apollo), Crew Module (CEV); d, day; EDC, electrochemical depolarized concentrator; ESAS, exploration
systems architecture study; EVA, extra vehicular activity; GCMS, gas chromatograph mass spectrometer; HSIR, human systems integration requirements;
ISS, International Space Station; LAS, Lunar Architecture Study; LEO, low earth orbit; LiOH, lithium hydroxide; LM, Lunar Module; MTV, Mars
Transfer Vehicle; ORU, orbital replaceable unit; SBAR, sorbent-based atmosphere revitalization; SFWE, static feed water electrolysis; SM, Service
Module; SPWE, solid polymer water electrolysis; SSF, space station freedom; TCCS, trace contaminant control system; TIMES, thermoelectric integrated
membrane evaporation system; TOC, total organic carbon; VCD, vapor compression distillation; VPCAR, vapor phase catalytic ammonia removal
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: Harry.Jones@nasa.gov (H.W. Jones), Mark.Kliss@nasa.gov (M.H. Kliss).

0273-1177/$36.00 Published by Elsevier Ltd. on behalf of COSPAR.

918 H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928

Exploration Policy. The purpose of this paper is to describe Table 1

new technologies being developed to meet future life sup- Human transport vehicles and habitats.
port requirements. Destination Transport Duration Habitat Duration
2. Space exploration human habitats ISS/LEO CEV 1–2 days ISS 10 years
Lunar CEV, Lunar 3 days Lunar 10 days
surface Lander Lander
The crew habitats required by the U.S. Space Exploration Lunar CEV, Lunar 3 days Lunar 10 years
Policy are the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), the Lunar Outpost Lander Outpost
Lander, the Lunar Outpost, the Mars Transfer Vehicle Mars MTV 6 months Mars base 18 months
(MTV), and the Mars base. Each of these will be described.

2.1. The CEV and transfers to the MTV for the trip to Mars. The Mars
lander is placed in Mars orbit before the crew is launched.
The CEV is sized to support all U.S. Space Exploration After Mars descent, the MTV and CEV remain in Mars
missions to ISS, the Moon, and Mars. The CEV will be orbit waiting for the return to Earth (ESAS, 2005).
able to launch four crewmembers to the Moon, six to dock
with the Mars Transit Vehicle, and up to six to ISS. Like 2.5. The Mars base
Apollo, the CEV will include a Crew Module (CM) and
a Service Module (SM). Both the CEV CM and SM will The Mars exploration mission requires an 18-month
include parts of the life support system. Significant changes stay on Mars. The surface habitat is deployed on the Mars
from Shuttle and Apollo are proposed for CEV. The CEV surface before the crew is launched from Earth. The Lunar
will use solar power rather than fuel cells to support the Outpost will provide valuable testing for Mars, but if
extended uncrewed CEV stay in lunar orbit. in situ resources are used, Mars life support may not be
identical to lunar life support, because of differences in
2.2. The Lunar Lander atmosphere and surface resources (ESAS, 2005).
Table 1 shows the human transport vehicles and habitats
The Lunar Lander will be a two stage – descent and providing life support for the space exploration missions.
ascent – expendable spacecraft similar to the Apollo Lunar Life support requirements and costs increase with
Module (LM). The ascent stage contains a combined crew increasing mission distance and duration. Mission duration
cabin and airlock (not provided by Apollo), and both are is a key life support design factor.
mounted on top of the descent stage. The Lunar Lander
will support four crewmembers on the lunar surface for 3. Life support system requirements
7 days, for lunar sortie missions similar to the Apollo mis-
sions. Unlike Apollo, all crewmembers land on the Moon; The three most basic life support requirements are to
none remain in lunar orbit. (ESAS, 2005). provide a habitable environment with appropriate atmo-
sphere and temperature, to supply the human consumables
2.3. The Lunar Outpost of oxygen, buffer gas, drinking water, food, and wash
water, and to remove human wastes including carbon diox-
A primary objective of the US Space Exploration Policy ide, waste water, urine, and feces. A space habitat also
is to establish a Lunar Outpost for continuous human pres- requires environmental control to prevent decompression,
ence on the Moon. The current approach to lunar explora- detect and suppress fire, and remove gaseous contami-
tion is defined by the Lunar Architecture Study (LAS). nants. Table 2 lists these life support requirements.
(Dale, 2006) (NASA Office of Public Affairs, 2006) Where
the ESAS report anticipated several sortie missions before 3.1. Crewmember minimum mass flow requirements
the Lunar Outpost, the LAS places near-total emphasis on
the permanent outpost. The Lunar Outpost will be near the The NASA Constellation Program, in the Human Sys-
south pole of the Moon. The outpost will be assembled and tems Integration Requirements (HSIR, 2006), defines the
tested by four-person crews on 7-day missions. When con- minimum mass flow needed to support a typical crewmem-
tinuous habitation becomes possible, 180-day missions ber as shown in Table 3.
with rotating crews will test exploration methods and sys- The minimum daily beneficial mass flow to support the
tems to prepare for Mars. assumed typical crewmember is 5.82 kg per crewmember
per day (kg/CM-day).
2.4. The MTV
4. Apollo, Space Shuttle, and ISS life support
The Mars exploration mission requires 6 months to tra-
vel to Mars and 6 months to return to Earth. The crew of The Apollo, Shuttle, and ISS life support technologies
six is sent to Earth orbit in the CEV and rendezvous with are available low risk candidates for future systems. We
H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928 919

Table 2 4.1. Apollo life support

Life support categories and needs.
Human consumables The Apollo lunar mission used three modules. The
Provide food Command Module (CM) carried the three astronauts, the
Provide oxygen
Provide drinking water
flight controls, and most of the life support. The Service
Provide wash water Module (SM) housed the power, thermal, and propulsion
systems, and a small part of the life support. The Lunar
Process and recycle waste
Remove and recycle carbon dioxide Module (LM) was used for descent to the surface, living
Remove and recycle waste water on the Moon, and ascent to the Command Module.
Remove and recycle urine The Apollo Command Module held the potable and
Remove and store feces wastewater storage, carbon trace contaminant removal,
Other habitable atmosphere LiOH carbon dioxide removal, solid waste storage, and
Provide buffer gas heat exchangers and cold plates. Only the oxygen storage
Remove atmosphere contaminants tanks and the fuel cells providing power and water were
Maintain temperature and humidity
Prevent decompression
in the Service Module (see Fig. 1) (Wieland, 1994; Diamant
Detect and suppress fire and Humphries, 1990).
The Apollo LM life support was similar to the CM, with
a few differences. The LM potable water was provided
Table 3
Minimum crewmember daily mass flow needs.
from storage tanks rather than fuel cells, and was purified
by iodine rather than chlorine (Wieland, 1994; Diamant
Needs kg/CM-day
and Humphries, 1990). The Apollo life support technolo-
Oxygen 0.93 gies are listed in Table 4, under the system categories of
Food solids 0.70
Water in food 1.29
atmosphere, water, and waste.
Food preparation and drinking water 2.50
Hygiene water 0.40
4.2. Space shuttle life support
Total 5.82

The Shuttle life support technologies are also listed in

describe the life support systems NASA has implemented Table 4 (Wieland, 1994; Eckart, 1996; Diamant and
for the Apollo, Space Shuttle, and ISS. Humphries, 1990). Fig. 2 gives a block diagram of the

Cabin Suit Carbon

air in compressor & LiOH

Suit H2 O Cabin Oxygen
CHX separator air out storage

Cabin Cabin water
air in CHX storage

Potable Water
Water water Fuel
out storage cell


Waste Vent
Command Module (CM) Module (SM)

Fig. 1. The Apollo Command Module life support.

920 H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928

Table 4
Apollo, Shuttle, and ISS life support technologies.
Apollo CM/LM Shuttle ISS
Destination Moon sortie LEO LEO
Duration 10 days 10 days 10 years
CO2 removal LiOH LiOH 4BMS
CO2 reduction None None Sabatier (scarred for)
TCC Activated charcoal, filters Activated charcoal, filters, oxidizer Activated charcoal, filters, oxidizer
TC monitoring none none GCMS
Atmosphere storage O2 cryo tanks N2 gas tanks, O2 cryo tanks N2, O2 tanks
Atmosphere source O2 cryo tanks N2 gas tanks, O2 cryo tanks CO2 reduction, H2O electrolysis
Humidity control Suit CHX CHX, condensate to waste water CHX, condensate
Potable water storage One or several tanks Tanks Tank
Water source Fuel cell, tanks in LM Fuel cell Shuttle fuel cell, wastewater recycling planned
Water purification Chlorine, iodine in LM tanks Iodine, microbial check valves Iodine
Water monitoring None None TOC, pH, iodine, conductivity
Wastewater processing None, vented None, vented Multifiltration
Waste water storage Tank Tank Tank
Feces processing Fecal bags Feces vacuum dried, compacted Fecal bags compacted
Urine processing None, urine vented except LM None, urine to waste water tank VCD

Cabin Filter Fans LiOH & CHX Cabin

air in charcoal air out

Atmosphere Condensate

Fuel cell Water Waste

Crew water tank Vent
water tanks
Water Urine

Commode EVA suit Urine

drain system

Fig. 2. The Space Shuttle life support.

Space Shuttle atmosphere, water, and waste systems Water is stored in tanks, more is provided by fuel cells,
(Wieland, 1994; Diamant and Humphries, 1990). and it is purified by iodine. Feces are stored and urine is
In the Space Shuttle, the cabin air, which is also used to stored and vented.
cool cabin equipment, is circulated through a filter, fans, The differences between Shuttle and the Apollo CM are
lithium hydroxide (LiOH) and charcoal canisters, and a few. The Apollo CM used a pure oxygen atmosphere in
Condensing Heat Exchanger (CHX). Water from the fuel flight and required no nitrogen storage. It also used the
cells is stored in four tanks and delivered to the crew. EVA suit compressor and heat exchanger as part of the
Water is used for cooling and excess water can be vented CM life support. These differences reduced the mass of
to space. The Shuttle commode provides for vacuum dry- the Apollo life support, and reflect the additional cost of
ing and compaction of feces. Urine and drainage water moving mass from Earth orbit to lunar orbit.
from the Extravehicular Activity (EVA) suits are piped to
the wastewater tank. Except for the collection and venting 4.3. ISS life support
of wastewater, the atmosphere, water, and waste systems
are not interconnected. As shown in Table 4, the ISS life support is fundamen-
Table 4 and Figs. 1 and 2 show that the Apollo and tally different from that of Shuttle and Apollo. The orders
Shuttle life support technologies and system architectures of magnitude longer duration of the ISS mission would
are very similar. LiOH and activated charcoal are used lead to very large launch costs if all oxygen and water were
for atmosphere purification and tanks for oxygen storage. provided directly from Earth. Recycling carbon dioxide,
H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928 921

Cabin contaminant Cabin O2 & N2
air in monitoring air out storage
and control

Cabin CO2 CO2 CO2

air in removal storage reduction
Water O2
O2 out
out generation

Waste Waste Water Potable Water

water storage processor storage out

Fuel Storage

Commode Waste Urine

urinal storage processor


Fig. 3. The ISS life support.

wastewater, and urine is planned for ISS. Implementing tillate is combined with other wastewater. The commode
recycling was deferred because the Shuttle provided excess provides for bagging and compacting feces.
fuel cell water to ISS, and this water was used directly or to
provide oxygen by electrolysis. Fig. 3 shows the ISS life 5. Open loop direct supply versus closed loop recycling
support (Diamant and Humphries, 1990; Carasquillo and
Bertotto, 1999; Bagdigian and Ogle, 2001). The two ways to provide space life support are (1) the
Although all the ISS life support is not yet operational, direct supply of all the air, water, and food to be consumed
redundant trace contaminant control and analysis and car- by the crew (all open loop), or (2) physical/chemical regen-
bon dioxide removal units have long been deployed eration of air and water with direct supply of food (oxygen
onboard the US laboratory module. The oxygen generator and water recycling).
and the water processor have been flown. Direct supply is adequate for short CEV trips to ISS and
As shown in Fig. 3, the trace contaminant control and the Moon, and for short lunar sorties in the Lunar Lander.
monitoring equipment operate directly on the cabin atmo- The CEV and Lunar Lander life support will be open loop
sphere. High pressure oxygen and nitrogen are stored in as are Apollo and Space Shuttle. Oxygen and water recy-
tanks in the air lock. The Node 3 four bed molecular sieve cling will be needed to reduce launch mass for the long
(4BMS) carbon dioxide removal system currently allows duration lunar base, the MTV trip to and from Mars,
the carbon dioxide to be vented to space. In the future, it and the Mars base. Long duration life support will use oxy-
could be delivered to a scarred-for Sabatier carbon dioxide gen and water recycling as planned for ISS.
reduction system. The electrolysis oxygen generator pro-
vides oxygen directly to the cabin atmosphere. The hydro- 5.1. Recycling breakeven date
gen produced by water electrolysis is now vented
overboard but could be used later in Sabatier carbon diox- The mass of oxygen and water needed per crewmember
ide reduction. per day is about 5 kg per crewmember per day (kg/CM-d)
Waste hygiene water and cabin condensate are stored in including the water in food. To estimate the breakeven
Node 3 and routed through the potable water processor to date, the mass is doubled to 10 kg per crewmember per
a product storage tank. Fuel cell water from the Shuttle is day to allow for tankage and storage structure.
stored in the US laboratory module and used directly when The recycling system mass should include allowances for
the potable water processor product is insufficient. Stored the power, cooling and structure needed to support the
water can be manually sampled and tested. Urine is system, using the concept of equivalent system mass.
pumped from the urinal to the urine processor and the dis- The equivalent system mass of the recycling system can
922 H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928

be estimated as about 400 kg per crewmember. The recy-

cling equipment has a daily material cost of about 1 kg/ Habitat Oxygen
Atmosphere Supply
CM-d. (Jones and Kliss, 2005) It is assumed that oxygen
and water recycling is 90 percent efficient.
The purpose of recycling is to save the daily mass of
oxygen and water provided in direct resupply. But saving Drink & Condensate
Food Water Purification
this resupply mass requires providing a large recycling sys-
tem plus the daily material the resupply equipment con-
sumes. If the mission is short, the total mass for resupply
would be much less than the mass of the recycling system. Urine System Urine
For short missions, recycling does not pay for its mass, so it Purification
does not break even. But the total daily resupply mass
saved by recycling increases directly with the mission
length. The date when the resupply mass saved by recycling Wash System Wash Water
just equals the mass of the recycling equipment plus its Purification
daily material is called the recycling breakeven date.
The breakeven date is computed as the time when the
resupply mass equals the recycling mass. The daily material Habitat Air and water
mass requirement is 10 kg/CM-d. Ninety percent of this is
recovered by recycling, so recycling saves 9 kg/CM-d. The Fig. 5. Proposed functional architecture of the oxygen and water systems.
recycling equipment requires 1 kg/CM-d of support materi-
als, so the net savings of recycling is 8 kg/CM-d. The Typical breakeven analyses indicate that water recycling
breakeven date is (400 kg/CM)/(8 kg/CM-d) = 50 days. “should be used for a mission longer than a few weeks,”
This recycling breakeven date calculation indicates that “oxygen regeneration technologies should be applied for
oxygen and water should be supplied directly for missions missions longer than a few months,” and that breakeven
of much less than 50 days but provided by recycling on on food production “is unlikely” (Doll and Eckart, 2000).
missions longer than 50 days (see Fig. 4).
Directly supply for missions that are longer than the 6. Oxygen and water recycling system architecture for long
breakeven date costs much more than recycling. If direct duration missions
provisioning is used out to 100 days, twice the breakeven
date, its total cost is 10 kg/CM-d  100 d = 1000 kg/CM. The top-level functional architecture of the oxygen and
The cost of recycling for 100 days would be 400 kg/ water recycling systems and the crew habitat interfaces
CM + (1 kg/CM-d recycling supplies + 1 kg/CM-d recy- are shown in Fig. 5.
cling losses)  100 d = 600 kg/CM. Using direct supply The oxygen and water systems includes four subsystems:
for 100 days costs 400 kg/CM more than recycling (the Oxygen Supply, Condensate Purification, Urine Purifica-
breakeven date computation does not consider the different tion, and Wash Water Purification.
reliabilities of resupply or recycling). The Oxygen Supply subsystem includes different compo-
nents for carbon dioxide removal and its reduction to water
and for oxygen generation from water. The components of
the Oxygen Supply subsystem are shown in Fig. 6. The
flows of carbon and hydrogen are not shown because they
depend on technology selection for carbon dioxide
The oxygen and water recycling systems must provide:

1. Oxygen
2. Drinking and food preparation water

O2 Store O2
O2 Generation H2 O

CO2 Removal Reduction H2 O

Fig. 4. Cumulative mass versus duration for direct supply and recycling. Fig. 6. Components of the Oxygen Supply subsystem.
H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928 923

3. Urine flush water Apollo CM life support approach. A later CEV will launch
4. Wash water a larger crew for Mars, but it operates for a short duration
and can also use a similar life support architecture. The
They must generate these products by recycling input Lunar Lander will support a crew for several days on the
waste streams: Moon, like the Apollo LM, and can also use a similar life
support. Table 5 gives a possible legacy life support
1. Exhaled carbon dioxide approach for the CEV and Lunar Lander, using the same
2. Respiration and perspiration condensate format as Table 4.
3. Urine and urine flush water
4. Used wash water 7.2. New life support technologies in the CEV

A direct but too-simple design approach would be to use The CEV life support will use new life support technol-
largely independent recycling processors for each input– ogies described in the ESAS. Unlike the Shuttle and Apollo
output pair; carbon dioxide–oxygen, condensate–drinking CM, the CEV will use solar arrays, not fuel cells, for
water, urine–urine flush, and wash water. However, the power. The CEV will use solar power because of the
output and input mass flow rates are not identical and requirement for 7 months inoperative time in lunar orbit
transfer between the processor streams is necessary. If while one crew is conducting its Lunar Outpost mission
water is supplied in hydrated food, there may be excess (ESAS, 2005). The use of fuel cells on CEV missions could
water. have provided more than enough water for the crew and
also excess water, as with Shuttle, that could have been
7. Short mission (CEV, Lunar Lander) life support transferred to ISS or other spacecraft.
Unlike the Shuttle and Apollo CM, the CEV will use a
The CEV and the Lunar Lander could have been swing bed, not LiOH and not a condensing heat exchanger,
designed to use the life support technologies originally to remove carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere
developed for Apollo and Shuttle. However, innovative (ESAS, 2005). Respired and perspired water captured by
technologies are planed for and offer compelling the condensing atmosphere heat exchangers could have
advantages. been a significant source of recycled water.

7.1. Legacy life support technologies for CEV and Lunar 7.2.1. Amine-based swing bed carbon dioxide removal
Lander An amine-based swing bed carbon dioxide and humidity
removal technology is being developed for the CEV to
Since the CEV takes crews to ISS and lunar orbit, like eliminate both carbon dioxide and water. It eliminates
the Shuttle and Apollo CM, it can use the Shuttle and the need for the previously used condensing heat exchan-
ger, phase separator, and low-temperature thermal control.
The swing bed system is shown in Fig. 7.
Table 5
Legacy Apollo and Shuttle approach for CEV and Lunar Lander. The regenerable amine sorbent absorbs carbon dioxide
by first combining with water vapor to form a hydrated
CEV, Lunar Lander
amine and then reacting with carbon dioxide to form bicar-
Destination ISS, lunar orbit, MTV
bonate. The exothermic heat of reaction of the absorbing
Duration 10 days
Legacy basis Shuttle, Apollo bed combined with exposure to space vacuum provides
the energy necessary for carbon dioxide removal. A sepa-
rate dedicated trace contaminant control system will be
CO2 removal LiOH
CO2 reduction None needed with the swing bed system (Papale et al., 2009;
TCC Activated charcoal, filters Barta and Ewert, 2009).
TC monitoring None
Atmosphere storage N2, O2 tanks 7.2.2. Sorbent-based carbon dioxide removal
Atmosphere source N2, O2 tanks
Humidity control CHX
A sorbent-based carbon dioxide removal system is also
being developed for possible use in the CEV. The technol-
Water ogy uses a molecular sieve and silica gel sorbents, which
Potable water storage Tanks
Water source Tanks
have been successfully used on Skylab and the ISS. Like
Water purification Iodine the amine-based system, sorbent-based atmosphere revital-
Water monitoring None ization (SBAR) does not require a condensing heat exchan-
Wastewater processing None, vented ger, a water separator or a low-temperature coolant loop.
Waste water storage Tank The vacuum swing adsorption process requires only the
Waste vacuum of space for low-power sorbent regeneration.
Feces processing Fecal bags SBAR combines the carbon dioxide, latent water, and trace
Urine processing None, urine to waste water tank
contaminant removal functions in a single system, and may
924 H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928

Air inlet port

Valve housing
Air outlet



Fig. 7. The amine-based swing bed carbon dioxide removal system.

be suitable for longer duration missions (Miller and Knox, lates chemical contaminants removed from the spacecraft
2009; Ebner et al., 2009). atmosphere. Off-nominal increases in temperature or rela-
tive humidity may release the adsorbed contaminants from
7.2.3. Thermal catalytic oxidizer for trace contaminant the activated carbon bed back into the cabin atmosphere.
control system Because of these problems, a regenerable thermal catalytic
The trace contaminant control system (TCCS) used on oxidizer is being developed for CEV. A photograph of the
the ISS is comprised of three main components; an expend- prototype catalytic reactor is shown in Fig. 8.
able granular activated carbon bed, a thermal catalytic oxi- This ultra-compact, lightweight, regenerable trace con-
dizer, and an expendable post-sorbent bed. The activated taminant control system will reduce TCCS system weight
carbon bed is treated with phosphoric acid to prevent and operational complexity and can be utilized for future
ammonia not removed by the condensing heat exchanger missions (Perry, 2009).
from contaminating the thermal catalytic oxidizer. Because
the CEV atmosphere revitalization system will not include 7.2.4. Water disinfection
a condensing heat exchanger, more contaminants must be Water disinfection on the Space Shuttle and the ISS uses
removed by the TCCS. The activated carbon bed accumu- residual silver or iodine. Before stored water is consumed
by the crew, the iodine must be removed to avoid adverse
effects on the thyroid. It is desirable to replace iodine as
the disinfectant for future missions. Advanced disinfection
development efforts are investigating the use of ionic sil-
ver, its compatibility with materials such as stainless steel,
and its efficacy on target microbial organisms (Adam,

7.2.5. Urine pretreatment

Urine can either be collected and disposed of or pro-
cessed to recover the water. Chemical pretreatment of urine
inhibits microbial growth, prevents the hydrolysis of urea
to ammonia, and prevents the precipitation of solids. The
current US pretreatment approach uses oxone for disinfec-
tion and sulfuric acid for pH reduction, while the Russian
pretreatment system uses chromium trioxide for disinfec-
tion and sulfuric acid for pH reduction. These pretreatment
Fig. 8. The prototype catalytic reactor being developed for chemical trace chemicals are toxic and have poor compatibility with
contaminant control. future requirements to recover water from urine. Alterna-
H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928 925

tive urine pretreatment compounds with reduced toxicity 8.2. Needed improvements for Lunar Outpost, MTV, and
and minimal volume and mass are being investigated Mars base
(Verostko et al., 2004; Carter et al., 2008).
The ultimate goal of the U.S. Space Exploration Policy
is Mars, with the Moon serving as a test bed. Gaining expe-
7.2.6. CEV waste management
rience and proving capability is the reason to return to the
Spacecraft waste management to date has largely relied
Moon and establish a permanent base there.
on the collection and storage of trash and human waste.
The Mars trip has much greater distance and travel time
Trash has been typically compacted by hand and stored.
than visiting ISS or the Moon. The mass emplacement cost
Early metabolic waste collection systems consisted of bags,
per kilogram is much higher for Mars and the Moon than
while the ISS uses microgravity-compatible commodes.
for ISS. Because of the impossibility of rapid resupply or
Near-term efforts for CEV are focusing on developing an
crew return, the required reliability of life support is much
improved commode that combines the desirable waste
higher for Mars than for ISS or the Moon. The life support
entrainment feature of the ISS commode with the much
for the Lunar Outpost, MTV, and Mars base must have
lower mass and volume features of the Apollo bag system
much lower mass and much higher reliability than the
(Yuan et al., 2009).
ISS systems. The Lunar Outpost and Mars base life sup-
port can take advantage of gravity and planetary resources,
8. Long mission (Lunar Outpost, MTV, Mars base) life unlike ISS and MTV.
support The long mission ISS life support should be extensively
redesigned to reduce mass and improve reliability. There is
The Lunar Outpost, MTV, and Mars base are long an opportunity to incorporate ISS lessons learned and to
duration missions that could use the life support technolo- take advantage of technology advancements over the last
gies developed for ISS, but improvements are needed. 20 years.

8.1. Legacy ISS life support technologies for Lunar Outpost, 8.2.1. The ISS life support design raises several issues
MTV, and Mars base The life support design and technology selection process
for the ISS indicates that the ISS life support design may
Table 6 gives an ISS-based legacy approach for the not be optimum for future long duration missions. The ini-
Lunar Outpost, MTV, and Mars base life support. tial technology screening eliminated low technical maturity
However, compared to ISS, the Lunar Outpost, MTV, technologies. Baseline and alternate life support subsystem
and Mars base have much higher mass launch cost, much testing began in the mid 1980s, 20 years before the oxygen
longer travel time, and lesser or no capability for resupply and water systems could be launched to ISS. The ISS life
from Earth. support recycling technologies have not yet been flight
The oxygen generation, water purification, and urine
Table 6
Legacy ISS approach for Lunar Outpost, MTV, and Mars base. purification technologies chosen for ISS were selected more
on qualitative than quantitative analysis. The Equivalent
Lunar Outpost, MTV, Mars base
System Mass, a standard metric in life support design,
Destination Moon, Mars orbit, Mars
was not computed. Reliability was not compared quantita-
Duration 10 years, 6 months, 18 months
Legacy basis ISS tively. The oxygen, water purification, and urine technolo-
gies selections all changed between the earlier Space Station
CO2 removal 4BMS
Freedom (SSF) baseline identification and the final ISS
CO2 reduction Sabatier selection. The technologies not selected by ISS seem nearly
TCC Activated charcoal, filters, oxidizer as good as those selected.
TC monitoring GCMS A paper by ISS life support team members explains the
Atmosphere storage N2, O2 tanks need for improvements to the ISS design,
Atmosphere source CO2 reduction, H2O electrolysis
Humidity control CHX, condensate to waste water
“The baseline environmental control and life support
(ECLS) systems currently deployed on board the Interna-
Water tional Space Station (ISS) and that planned to be launched
Potable water storage Tanks
Water source Tanks, wastewater recycling
in Node 3 are based upon technologies selected in the early
Water purification Iodine 1990s. While they are generally meeting or exceeding
Water monitoring TOC, pH, iodine, conductivity requirements for supporting the ISS crew, lessons learned
Wastewater processing Multifiltration from years of on orbit and ground testing, together with
Waste water storage Tank new advances in technology state of the art, and the unique
Waste requirements for future manned missions prompt consider-
Feces processing Fecal bags, dried compacted ation of the next logical step to enhance these systems to
Urine processing VCD
increase performance, robustness, and reliability, and
926 H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928

reduce on orbit and logistical resource requirements” Table 7

(Emphasis added) (Carasquillo et al. 2004). Potential lower mass Lunar Outpost, MTV, or Mars base life support.
Problems cited with the ISS life support design include Lunar Outpost, MTV, Mars base
high power consumption, difficult maintainability and Destination Moon, Mars orbit, Mars
logistics, sensitivity of several components to particulates Duration 10 years, 6 months, 18 months
and fouling, gravity related problems in multi-phase fluid Analog ISS
flow and separations, and the lack of fine particle settling Atmosphere
in microgravity. There are potential improvements in CO2 removal EDC or 2BMS
CO2 reduction Sabatier
robustness, performance efficiency, and capability (Caras-
TCC Activated charcoal, filters, regenerable oxidizer
quillo et al., 2004). TC monitoring GCMS
The ISS life support design process may not have pro- Atmosphere storage N2, O2 tanks
duced the best design for the Lunar Outpost, MTV, and Atmosphere source CO2 reduction, H2O electrolysis
Mars base, especially considering their differing require- Humidity control CHX, condensate to waste water
ments. We consider mass and reliability requirements in Water
more detail. Potable water storage Tanks
Water source Tanks, wastewater recycling
Water purification Iodine
8.2.2. Lower mass needed for Moon and Mars missions
Water monitoring TOC, pH, iodine, conductivity
The Lunar Outpost life support system will have to be Wastewater processing Multifiltration
transported beyond LEO to lunar orbit and then the Waste water storage Tank
Moon’s surface. The MTV life support must be taken from Waste
LEO to Mars orbit and then returned to LEO. The Mars Feces processing Lyophilization
base life support must be taken from LEO to Mars orbit Urine processing TIMES or VPCAR
and then to Mars’ surface. The mass emplacement costs The approaches changed from ISS are given in bold italics.
for Lunar Outpost, MTV, and Mars base are about an
order of magnitude higher than the costs to transport mass
to ISS in LEO. a life support reliability of 0.99 for a short 10-day mission.
The higher mass emplacement cost makes more attrac- The corresponding reliability for 1 day is 0.999, indicating
tive the lower mass life support alternatives that were con- an expected failure rate of one in a thousand per day. This
sidered but not selected for ISS. An electrochemical is not sufficient for a 1000-day mission. The reliability over
depolarized concentrator (EDC) and a two bed molecular a 1000-day Mars mission would be 0.999 raised to the
sieve (2BMS) have lower mass than a 4BMS, a static feed exponential power of 1,000, or 0.999 ^ 1,000, which equals
water electrolysis (SFWE) oxygen generator has less mass 0.37, so that there would be a 63 percent chance of one or
than a solid polymer water electrolysis (SPWE), and a ther- more failures during the mission. This is not satisfactory
moelectric integrated membrane evaporation system reliability.
(TIMES) or Vapor Phase Catalytic Ammonia Removal To achieve a reliability of 0.99 over a 1000-day Mars
(VPCAR) urine processor has less mass than vapor com- mission, the corresponding reliability for 1 day would be
pression distillation (VCD) (Jones and Kliss, 2005). Lyoph- 0.99999, indicating an expected failure rate of one in one
ilization, or freeze-drying, can be used to recover a small hundred thousand per day. This corresponds to a reliability
amount of water from feces. over a 10-day mission of 0.9999. This corresponds to only
Table 7 lists a potential lower mass Lunar Outpost, one failure in 10,000 repeated 10-day missions.
MTV, or Mars base life support, using the same format Designing a system to be sufficiently reliable for
as Table 6. The approaches changed from ISS are given 1000 days will be difficult, but it is possible. Ultra reliable
in bold italics. space life support recycling systems can be built by dou-
Mass and launch cost can be reduced up to one half by bling their minimum mass. Recycling equipment can be
substituting EDC or 2BMS for 4BMS, SFWE for SPWE, partitioned to have a large number of components so that
and TIMES or VPCAR for VCD. the failure modes are separated and contained, and so that
the failure rate of each component is small because the fail-
8.2.3. Greater reliability needed for Mars missions ures are distributed over a large number of components.
Since it is not possible to send additional material or Ultra reliability can be achieved by providing a single spare
equipment, or to return ahead of schedule during a mission for each component if the number of components is large
to Mars, life support for the MTV or Mars base must have enough. This means that ultra reliability for recycling
much greater reliability than for ISS or the Lunar Outpost. equipment can be achieved by merely doubling the equip-
For any particular system, the probability of failure-free ment mass (Jones, 2008).
operation declines exponentially with mission duration. Life support equipment should be designed for ultra reli-
A mission to the ISS or a lunar sortie might require only ability and tested over the long term to ensure that such
10 operational days, while the total duration of a Mars reliability is attained. Systems must be designed, tested,
mission could be nearly a 1000 days. Suppose we achieve and allowed to fail so that they can be redesigned to
H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928 927

eliminate failure modes. Several cycles of design, long dura- high efficiency wiped-film rotating disk evaporator removes
tion test, and redesign will be needed to achieve and dem- inorganic salts and nonvolatile organic contaminants from
onstrate sufficiently high reliability for a Mars mission. the feed stream. The resulting vapor stream is then com-
pressed and passed through an oxidation reactor where
8.3. New life support technologies for long duration missions volatile hydrocarbons are converted to carbon dioxide
and water, and ammonia is oxidized to nitrogen and
In addition to the new technologies being developed for nitrous oxide. A second high temperature reduction reactor
CEV, there are new technologies in water processing and decomposes the nitrous oxide to nitrogen and oxygen. The
waste management that are suitable for long duration VPCAR converts about 97 percent of the wastewater to
missions. potable standards. A photograph of the VPCAR prototype
is shown in Fig. 9 (Duval et al., 2009).
8.3.1. Vapor Phase Catalytic Ammonia Removal (VPCAR)
Vapor Phase Catalytic Ammonia Removal (VPCAR) is 8.3.2. Waste management for long duration missions
a distillation-based/catalytic oxidation water processor. Its The accumulation of trash on spacecraft is a problem
design philosophy departs from the traditional concept of and future missions will require improved approaches. A
the on-orbit replaceable unit (ORU) in favor of a highly mechanical trash compaction system is being developed
integrated processor configuration. It accepts a combined to reduce the volume of trash to 10–20% of its original vol-
wastewater stream of humidity condensate, hygiene water, ume. For longer duration missions, a heating element in
and urine, and produces potable water in a single step with the compactor removes the water, stabilizes the waste,
no pre- or post-treatment required. The design is intended and encapsulates the compressed trash in the melted plastic
to require no consumables and minimal maintenance. A component of the trash. Plastic is typically more than 20%
of the trash by mass. A prototype heat melt compactor is
shown in Fig. 10.
The compactor recovers the water in the trash, compacts
the trash to 10–20% of its original volume, and encapsu-
lates the compressed waste in the melted plastic component
of the trash. Recovering water from both trash and meta-
bolic wastes would provide significant water mass launch
savings compared to the existing ISS approach (Pace
et al., 2009).

9. Conclusion

The Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) life support sys-

tem could be similar to the Space Shuttle and Apollo sys-
tems, but improved systems are needed and are being
developed. The Lunar Outpost, MTV, and Mars base life
support systems could be similar to the ISS system, but
Fig. 9. The Vapor Phase Catalytic Ammonia Removal (VPCAR) water they should be extensively redesigned to reduce mass,
processor. improve reliability, incorporate lessons learned, and take

Fig. 10. Prototype heat melt compactor with a sample waste disk.
928 H.W. Jones, M.H. Kliss / Advances in Space Research 45 (2010) 917–928

advantage of technology improvements over the last Duval, W., Hall, N., Mackey, J., Althausen, D., Izadnegahdar, A.,
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