NASA Sustainable Reprocessing in Space

Sustainable Reprocessing in Space

Imagine you are on a mission to Mars.
The journey to Mars and back is going to take two to three years, and there may not be any supply ships. To be as efficient and self-sufficient as possible, you will need to be able to recycle, repurpose, or reprocess things and make what you need from base materials. A completely efficient cycle is almost impossible, and some waste will have to be jettisoned to reduce mass and free up space inside the spacecraft. But ideally, you will have little to almost no waste since everything gets broken down and remade into new things. There are a lot of different kinds of waste on a spacecraft. What are the different ways that those useless waste streams can be repurposed?

This challenge is all about finding ways to convert waste into base materials and other useful things, like propellant or feedstock for 3D printing. We are looking for your ideas for how to convert different waste streams into useful materials that can then be made into needed things and cycled through multiple times – and we are looking for ideas to convert waste into propellant. Eventually, we would like to integrate all the different processes into a robust ecosystem that allows a spacecraft to launch from Earth with the lowest possible mass. For now, we are asking you to share your ideas for waste management/conversion in several specific categories:

Fecal waste
Foam packaging material
Carbon dioxide (CO2) processing
Winning ideas in each category will each receive a prize of $1,000. Additionally, judges will recognize “best in class” ideas, awarding each a prize of $1,000. A total prize purse of $24,000 will be awarded.

NASA’s Logistics Reduction Project is developing the future of materials management in next generation spacecraft and also for surface settlements. Winning ideas from this challenge will be included in a white paper that will be part of the roadmap for future technology development work. Go to the Guidelines Tab to learn more details about this challenge.


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