Unleashing the Power of Anaerobic–phototrophic Membrane Bioreactors for Sustainable Bioregenerative Life Support



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


2024 International Conference on Environmnetal Systems


Using the core ideals of bioregenerative life support, an anaerobic–phototrophic membrane bioreactor (APMBR) has been designed and operated at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to treat complex wastewaters with the goal of closing water and nutrient cycles on early planetary bases. The system combined the previously operated anaerobic membrane bioreactor and the phototrophic membrane bioreactor that have been detailed in presentations at previous ICES conferences. This newly combined system is able to treat complex wastewater with completely automated controls on a small footprint. The treatment of wastes in this APMBR is as follows: (1) the waste enters the anaerobic subsystem, where solids are hydrolyzed and carbon is removed via anaerobic digestion, (2) an ultrafiltration membrane is used to separate the solids and the recovered water, (3) the effluent from the anaerobic subsystem is fed to the phototrophic subsystem on command, (4) the algae–bacteria consortium aids in nitrification in the recovered water, and (5) an ultrafiltration membrane is used to separate the algae and the final recovered water. The recovered water from the APMBR is rich in nutrients, making it a sustainable source of fertilizer for downstream hydroponic systems. This conference paper will detail the design and operation of the APMBR as a bioregenerative alternative to physical–chemical systems or bag and storage systems. Data will be presented on subsystem water quality, membrane performance, and effluent quality. Overall, the APMBR has the ability to treat wastewater using a combination of biological and filtration technologies that allow for higher removal efficiencies, low consumable use, and small footprint.


Jason Fischer, Aetos Systems, Inc., USA
Lawrence Koss, Aetos Systems, Inc., USA
Daniella Saetta, Bennett Aerospace, Inc., USA
Talon Bullard, University of South Florida, USA
Alexandra Smith, University of South Florida, USA
Daniel Yeh, University of South Florida, USA
Luke Roberson, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA
ICES204: Bioregenerative Life Support
The 53rd International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, on 21 July 2024 through 25 July 2024.


Bioregenerative Life Support, Wastewater, Bioreactor, Membrane filtration