As you can imagine, going to space requires careful planning and innovative thinking. The astronauts and their mission control team need to be some of the most efficient packers. Bringing things into space is very expensive and at 1 kg per litre, water is one of the heaviest and most important carry-ons for a space mission.
Astronauts spend a lot of time in space. Gennady Padalka spent 879 days up there while American Peggy Whitson has been stationed at the ISS since 2002. Obviously, they can’t bring all the water they need with them, nor can they ship more water up on a regular basis. That leaves only one option – a water recycling system. But how does it work?
The ISS Water Recycling System
The ISS has a complex water management system capable of extracting every last drop of water it can access, much of which comes from unsavoury sources. Sources for recycled water include:
- People’s breath and sweat
- Animal’s breath and sweat
- Residue from hand washing
- Residue from oral hygiene
- Shower water and urine!
When you’re up in space, you lose a certain amount of precious water whenever you breathe or sweat. While a single drop of sweat or breath may not be much, every little bit counts. The ISS is designed to support a crew of six (plus visitors). The vapours created by these people breathing and sweating help maintain cabin humidity and play a crucial role in replenishing the water supply. Even the animals aboard the ISS play a part.
This system may sound disgusting, but the recycled water is as clean as bottled water or even better. The treatment process is far more aggressive than any found in wastewater treatment plants on Earth. The fact that there is less than 2% of clean water suitable for drinking available on the plant, seems to warrant if more companies should be recycling water?
Can This Technology Be Applied to Earth?
The water treatment system on the ISS is an ongoing research project. It is effective but not perfect, and it still relies on contingency water supplies that are brought to the shuttle during assembly missions. Astronauts must deal with a strict two litre a day ration. Instead of regular showers (which use approximately 50 litres), they sponge bath (which uses about four litres).
Researchers are constantly trying to improve the system, with entire teams devoted to developing space-related wastewater recycling technologies. According to NASA, this research is also aimed at helping better develop water recycling technologies on Earth with the goal of reducing water consumption in research buildings by 90 per cent.
OLEOLOGY Water Technology
OLEOLOGY offers revolutionary and affordable water treatment solutions across Australia, New Zealand and further abroad. OLEOLOGY was installed systems with governments, mining companies, petroleum companies, marinas and any other industries interested in treating wastewater. Our clients include Shell, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, City of Perth, NSW Maritime and more.
By reusing water, organisations can lower costs and their carbon footprint. Trust our team to custom-build a solution to suit your specific treatment needs. To find out more, call us today on 1300 692 359 or contact us online.