Providing photons for food in regenerative life support: A comparative analysis of solar fiber optic and electric light systems

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2020 International Conference on Environmental Systems

Providing photons for food production in a plant-based bioregenerative life support system (BLSS) is a significant component of total system cost. The energy to drive photosynthesis is the dominant factor in system net mass, power, and cooling requirements. These requirements have been historically converted to an Equivalent System Mass (ESM) to facilitate a trade studies among technology options. Previous trade studies were conducted more than 10 years ago and did not include advances in solar photovoltaics and light emitting diode technologies.
We evaluated electric, solar fiber optic (SFO), and hybrid-based lighting systems for Lunar and Martian missions. The Electric to SFO ESM ratio is 1.09 for the Lunar base and 0.68 for the Martian base. This indicates that providing lighting from SFO has a slightly lower system mass on the Moon, and a 47% greater mass on Mars. A sensitivity analysis indicated that ESM ratios are sensitive to 1) the LED electric lighting efficiency and 2) length of the fiber optic cables. Other assumptions had smaller effects on the ESM ratios. Qualitative parameters important to system design are discussed for each mission and lighting system. Although the focus of this work is lighting supplied to plants, this can be applied to multi-purpose lighting in a spacecraft or habitat.

Bruce Bugbee, Utah State University, US
Matthew Hardy, Duke University, US
Ray Wheeler, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), US
Mike Ewert, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), US
Paul Kusuma,Utah State University, US
ICES204: Bioregenerative Life Support
The proceedings for the 2020 International Conference on Environmental Systems were published from July 31, 2020. The technical papers were not presented in person due to the inability to hold the event as scheduled in Lisbon, Portugal because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Photovoltaics, Solar power, Food production, Mars, Moon, Equivalent system mass