Assessing the Recycling Potential of Cupriavidus necator for Space Travel: Production of SCPs and PHAs from Organic Wastes



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2023 International Conference on Environmental Systems


Nowadays on the international space station, more than twelve replenishments per year are necessary to supply food, spare parts and scientific experiments and to take out wastes. But as it is envisaged to go longer in space, those replenishments won’t be possible anymore because of the distances involved. The astronaut life support system must be capable of continuously transforming wastes into valuable compounds. Two production types have been identified as critical and could be completed with a unique microorganism like Cupriavidus necator. As microgravity leads to fast muscle loss single cell proteins (SCPs) could be used as protein rich food for the crew. In addition, disposing of a sufficient amount of construction materials to build an advanced habitat will not be possible only by space goods transported from Earth to Mars. C. necator is well known for its ability to produce polyhydroxyalkanoate biopolymers (PHAs). By coupling the life support system to a 3D-printer, astronauts could be provided by an unlimited amount of construction materials. Moreover, based on life support system design, waste streams have been identified: urea coming from the crew’s urine and volatile fatty acids (VFAs) coming from a first step of anaerobic waste digestion. So, the objective of this work was to compare the effect of carbon sources (glucose vs VFA mix vs individual VFAs) on the biomass composition for SCP and PHA productions. Because life support systems function continuously as loops, continuous culture have been chosen. The total transformation of the carbon source into high SCP or PHA content biomass has been achieved. The best VFA composition for those applications have been identified.


Pierre Joris,
Gregory Navarro,
Alexis Paillet,
Eric Lombard,
Nathalie Gorret,
Stephane Guillouet,
ICES500: Life Science/Life Support Research Technologies
The 52nd International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Calgary, Canada, on 16 July 2023 through 20 July 2023.


Cupriavidus necator, Life support system, Single cell proteins, Waste treatment, Biopolymers