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NASA Succeeds in Recycling 98% of the Water on the ISS 

NASA Succeeds in Recycling 98% of the Water on the ISS 
Image: NASA

The Environmental Control and Life Support System or ECLSS onboard the International Space Station is turning urine into water that is “cleaner than what we drink here on Earth.” The robust and reliable regenerative system is reducing the amount of water that has to be carried from Earth to the ISS. This is a rare technological feat. Earlier, the ECLSS was able to reclaim 93 to 94% of the water. The new milestone achieved by NASA will have a significant impact on missions beyond earth.

The new, improved ECLSS uses “advanced dehumidifiers” that capture the moisture from the breath and sweat of the astronauts as they go about doing their regular chores. There is a subsystem called the Urine Processor Assembly that reclaims water from the urine that the astronauts pass. The distillation process yielded water and urine brine. The urine brine also contained reclaimable water. Now, NASA has developed the technology to recover the H2O from urine brine. Thus, the water recovery rate has reached an incredible 98%.

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This is a very important step forward in the evolution of life support systems,” said Christopher Brown, a member of the team that manages the International Space Station’s life support systems. He explained, “Let’s say you collect 100 pounds of water on the station. You lose two pounds of that and the other 98 percent just keeps going around and around. Keeping that running is a pretty awesome achievement.

Jill Williamson, NASA’s ECLSS water subsystem manager, said, “The less water and oxygen we have to ship up, the more science that can be added to the launch vehicle,” Williamson said. “Reliable, robust regenerative systems mean the crew doesn’t have to worry about it and can focus on the true intent of their mission.

Video by ScienceAtNASA

About the author


Sruti Chowdhury

Sruti is a storyteller for all trades. She loves to write about everything -- from sci-fi movies to cyber security. She is a phenomenal singer, an ardent reader, and dreams to travel the world.

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