The Life Cycle Cost (LCC) of Life Support Recycling and Resupply
Jones, Harry W.
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Brief human space missions supply all the crew’s water and oxygen from Earth. The multiyear International Space Station (ISS) program instead uses physicochemical life support systems to recycle water and oxygen. This paper compares the Life Cycle Cost (LCC) of recycling to the LCC of resupply for potential future long duration human space missions. Recycling systems have high initial development costs but relatively low duration- dependent support costs. This means that recycling is more cost effective for longer missions. Resupplying all the water and oxygen requires little initial development cost but has a much higher launch mass and launch cost. The cost of resupply increases as the mission duration increases. Resupply is therefore more cost effective than recycling for shorter missions. A recycling system pays for itself when the resupply LCC grows greater over time than the recycling LCC. The time when this occurs is called the recycling breakeven date. Recycling will cost very much less than resupply for long duration missions within the Earth-Moon system, such as a future space station or Moon base. But recycling would cost about the same as resupply for long duration deep space missions, such as a Mars trip. Because it is not possible to provide emergency supplies or quick return options on the way to Mars, more expensive redundant recycling systems will be needed.