Developmental Efforts of an Electrochemical Oxygen Recovery System for Advanced Life Support
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The current State of Art (SOA) Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) oxygen recovery system onboard the International Space Station (ISS) is a complex, heavy, and power consuming system that recovers approximately 50% of the oxygen (O2) from metabolic carbon dioxide (CO2). For future long-duration missions, O2 recovery systems will need to be highly reliable, efficient, and recover maximum metabolic CO2. A minimum of 75% O2 recovery is required for future O2 recovery systems. Investigations into various technologies to help meet these requirements for exploration are ongoing; however, most of these proposed technologies ultimately result in a more complex system. A Macrofluidic Electrochemical Reactor (MFECR) is one proposed technology development effort currently underway at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) that has the potential to significantly reduce the complexity of ECLSS O2 recovery system. The MFECR operates at standard conditions, giving it an advantage over other technologies being investigated, which require high temperatures resulting in heavy reactors and high power consumption. The MFECR would replace three pieces of hardware for future ECLSS architectures: the current Carbon Dioxide Reduction Assembly (Sabatier reactor), the Plasma Pyrolysis Assembly (PPA), and the Oxygen Generation Assembly (OGA). It is designed to interface directly with the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA) and the Water Processor Assembly (WPA). This allows for a less complex system and higher reliability than the current SOA as well as reduced power, weight and H2O consumption of ECLSS. Here, we will discuss the current development efforts of the MFECR and how this technology may aide in the advancement of future long-duration life support systems.