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Technical Paper

Comparison of Bioregenerative and Physical/Chemical Life Support Systems

2006-07-17
2006-01-2082
Popular depictions of space exploration as well as government life support research programs have long assumed that future planetary bases would rely on small scale, closed ecological systems with crop plants producing food, water, and oxygen and with bioreactors recycling waste. In actuality, even the most advanced anticipated human life support systems will use physical/ chemical systems to recycle water and oxygen and will depend on food from Earth. This paper compares bioregenerative and physical/chemical life support systems using Equivalent System Mass (ESM), which gauges the relative cost of hardware based on its mass, volume, power, and cooling requirements. Bioregenerative systems are more feasible for longer missions, since they avoid the cost of continually supplying food.
Technical Paper

Spacesuit Cooling on the Moon and Mars

2009-07-12
2009-01-2418
NASA is planning to return to the moon and then explore Mars. A permanent base at the south pole of the moon will be the test bed for Mars. At the moon base, two crewmembers are expected to conduct Extravehicular Activity (EVA) six days every week. Current spacesuits are cooled by the sublimation of water ice into vacuum. A single 7 hour EVA near the lunar equator in daylight can expend up to 5 kilograms of water. Because of the high cost of transporting spacesuit cooling water to the moon, the water for one EVA could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The lunar south pole and Mars have low surface temperatures that make cooling much easier than at the lunar equator. Alternate cooling methods and staying in cool environments can reduce or eliminate the use of water for spacesuit cooling. If cooling water is not needed, a recycling life support system can provide all the required crew water and oxygen without transporting additional water from Earth.
Technical Paper

Starship Life Support

2009-07-12
2009-01-2466
The design and mass cost of a starship and its life support system are investigated. The mission plan for a multigenerationai interstellar voyage to colonize a new planet is used to describe the starship design, including the crew habitat, accommodations, and life support. Cost is reduced if a small crew travels slowly and lands with minimal equipment. The first human interstellar colonization voyage will probably travel about 10 light years and last hundreds of years. The required travel velocity is achievable by nuclear propulsion using near future technology. To minimize mission mass, the entire starship would not decelerate at the destination. Only small descent vehicles would land on the destination planet. The most mass efficient colonization program would use colonizing crews of only a few dozen. Highly reliable life support can be achieved by providing selected spares and full replacement systems.
Technical Paper

The Dynamic Impact of EVA on Lunar Outpost Life Support

2008-06-29
2008-01-2017
Dynamic simulation of the Lunar Outpost habitat life support was undertaken to investigate the impact of Extravehicular Activity (EVA). The preparatory static analysis and some supporting data are reported in another paper. (Jones, 2008-01-2184) Dynamic simulation is useful in understanding systems interactions, buffer needs, control approaches, and responses to failures and changes. A simulation of the Lunar outpost habitat life support was developed in MATLAB/Simulink™. The simulation is modular and reconfigurable, and the components are reusable to model other physicochemical (P/C) based recycling systems. EVA impacts the Lunar Outpost life support system design by requiring a significant increase in the direct supply mass of oxygen and water and by reducing the net mass savings of using dehydrated food. The mass cost of EVA depends on the amount and difficulty of the EVA scheduled.
Technical Paper

Lunar Base Life Support Mass Flow and Recycling

2008-06-29
2008-01-2184
This report considers crewmembers’ life support needs for air, water, and food in a long duration lunar surface base. It also considers requirements for washing and clean-up water, waste recycling, and the crew's use of air, water, and food during Extravehicular Activity (EVA). The life support mass flow is described, including the needs of the statistical average crewmember, the expected variation between crewmembers, and the potential range of the total crew's average requirements. To develop the lowest cost, most reliable life support system that meets the crew needs, we must understand how the requirements impose design constraints and cost drivers and provide options and opportunities. We also must be aware of the degree of flexibility and potential change in requirements as their costs and implementation become defined.
Journal Article

Ultra Reliable Space Life Support Systems

2008-06-29
2008-01-2160
Ultra reliable space life support systems can be built with small additional mass for direct material supply or about twice the minimum mass for recycling equipment. The required direct supply of a material such as oxygen, water, or food for space life support can be provided in some number “r” of identical packages. If only one of the r packages fails, the life support system fails. But by providing n > r packages, so that there are n - r spare packages to make up for failures, the reliability of direct material supply can be greatly increased. Ultra reliability can be achieved if the required direct supply is provided in 10 to 100 or more packages with 1 or 2 spare packages, so the additional mass required for ultra reliable direct life support is only a few percent.
Technical Paper

Mars Transit Life Support

2007-07-09
2007-01-3160
This paper considers the design of a life support system for transit to Mars and return to Earth. Because of the extremely high cost of launching mass to Mars, the Mars transit life support system must minimize the amount of oxygen, water, and food transported. The three basic ways to provide life support are to directly supply all oxygen and water, or to recycle them using physicochemical equipment, or to produce them incidentally while growing food using crop plants. Comparing the costs of these three approaches shows that physicochemical recycling of oxygen and water is least costly for a Mars transit mission. The long mission duration also requires that the Mars transit life support system have high reliability and maintainability. Mars transit life support cannot make use of planetary resources or gravity. It should be tested in space on the International Space Station (ISS).
Technical Paper

Breakeven Mission Durations for Physicochemical Recycling to Replace Direct Supply Life Support

2007-07-09
2007-01-3221
The least expensive life support for brief human missions is direct supply of all water and oxygen from Earth without any recycling. The currently most advanced human life support system was designed for the International Space Station (ISS) and will use physicochemical systems to recycle water and oxygen. This paper compares physicochemical to direct supply air and water life support systems using Equivalent Mass (EM). EM breakeven dates and EM ratios show that physicochemical systems are more cost effective for longer mission durations.
Technical Paper

Designing to Mitigate Food Growing Failures in Space

2004-07-19
2004-01-2582
Future space life support systems may use crop plants to grow most of the crew’s food. A harvest failure can reduce the food available for future consumption. If the previously stored food is insufficient to last until the next harvest, the crew may go hungry. This paper considers how the overall food supply system should be designed to cope with food production failures. The food supply system for a mission will use grown food, or stored food, or both. The optimum food supply mix depends on the costs and failure probabilities of stored and grown food. A simple food system model assumes that either we obtain the nominal harvest or a failure occurs and no food is harvested. Given the probability that any particular harvest fails, it is easy to compute the expected number of failures and the total food shortfall over a mission.
Technical Paper

Nonlinear Dynamic Models in Advanced Life Support

2002-07-15
2002-01-2291
To facilitate analysis, Advanced Life Support (ALS) systems are often assumed to be linear and time invariant, but they usually have important nonlinear and dynamic aspects. This paper reviews nonlinear models applicable to ALS. Nonlinear dynamic behavior can be caused by time varying inputs, changes in system parameters, nonlinear system functions, closed loop feedback delays, and limits on buffer storage or processing rates. Dynamic models are usually cataloged according to the number of state variables. The simplest dynamic models are linear, using only integration, multiplication, addition, and subtraction of the state variables. A general linear model with only two state variables can produce all the possible dynamic behavior of linear systems with many state variables, including stability, oscillation, or exponential growth and decay. Linear systems can be described using mathematical analysis.
Technical Paper

Exobiochemistry and the Search for Alien Life

2002-07-15
2002-01-2472
Exobiochemistry is the biochemistry of extraterrestrial life. It describes the potential energy and material basis of extraterrestrial life and is needed to guide the search for alien life. The diverse biochemistry of Earth indicates that a wide range of exobiochemistry is possible on other planets. Any exobiochemistry we discover will probably use the same energy sources as Earth's natural biochemistry - light, biological organic material, and more rarely abiotic chemicals. Extraterrestrial life will be based on familiar chemical principles and so will probably capture, store, and release energy using oxidation-reduction reactions similar to those found on Earth. Any extraterrestrial life must produce some chemical indication of its existence. Useful elements will be concentrated, stored, and recycled, altering their availability and isotopic composition.
Technical Paper

Design Rules for Space Life Support Systems

2003-07-07
2003-01-2356
This paper describes engineering rules of thumb for life support system design. One general design rule is that the longer the mission, the more the life support system should use regenerable technologies and recycling. A more specific rule is that, if plants supply more than about half the food, the plants will provide all the oxygen needed by the crew. There are many such design rules that can help in planning the analysis of life support systems or in assessing design concepts. These rules typically describe the results of steady state, “back of the envelope,” trade-off calculations. They are useful in suggesting plausible candidate life support system designs or approaches. Life support system engineers should consider the basic design rules and make quick steady state calculations as a guide before doing detailed design.
Technical Paper

Equivalent Mass Versus Life Cycle Cost for Life Support Technology Selection

2003-07-07
2003-01-2635
The decision to develop a particular life support technology or to select it for flight usually depends on the cost to develop and fly it. Other criteria such as performance, safety, reliability, crew time, and technical and schedule risk are considered, but cost is always an important factor. Because launch cost would account for much of the cost of a future planetary mission, and because launch cost is directly proportional to the mass launched, equivalent mass has been used instead of cost to select advanced life support technology. The equivalent mass of a life support system includes the estimated mass of the hardware and of the spacecraft pressurized volume, power supply, and cooling system that the hardware requires. The equivalent mass of a system is defined as the total payload launch mass needed to provide and support the system. An extension of equivalent mass, Equivalent System Mass (ESM), has been established for use in the Advanced Life Support project.
Technical Paper

Dynamic Modeling of ALS Systems

2003-07-07
2003-01-2543
The purpose of dynamic modeling and simulation of Advanced Life Support (ALS) systems is to help design them. Static steady state systems analysis provides basic information and is necessary to guide dynamic modeling, but static analysis is not sufficient to design and compare systems. ALS systems must respond to external input variations and internal off-nominal behavior. Buffer sizing, resupply scheduling, failure response, and control system design are aspects of dynamic system design. We develop two dynamic mass flow models and use them in simulations to evaluate systems issues, optimize designs, and make system design trades. One model is of nitrogen leakage in the space station, the other is of a waste processor failure in a regenerative life support system. Most systems analyses are concerned with optimizing the cost/benefit of a system at its nominal steady-state operating point. ALS analysis must go beyond the static steady state to include dynamic system design.
Technical Paper

Extraterrestrial Ecology (Exoecology)

2001-07-09
2001-01-2143
Researchers in astrobiology should develop alternate concepts for the detection of extraterrestrial life. We should search for extraterrestrial ecology, exoecology, as well as for extraterrestrial biology, exobiology. Ecology describes the interactions of living things with their environment. All ecosystems are highly constrained by their environment and conform to well-known and inescapable system design principles. An ecology could exist wherever there is an energy source and living things can employ some method to capture, store, and use the available energy. Terrestrial ecosystems use energy sources including light, organic molecules, and, in thermal vents and elsewhere, simple inorganic molecules. Ecosystem behavior is controlled by matter and energy conservation laws and is described by dynamic systems theory. Typically in an ecosystem different molecules are not in chemical equilibrium and scarce materials are conserved, stored, or recycled.
Technical Paper

Modeling Separate and Combined Atmospheres in BIO-Plex

2001-07-09
2001-01-2361
We modeled BIO-Plex designs with separate or combined atmospheres and then simulated controlling the atmosphere composition. The BIO-Plex is the Bioregenerative Planetary Life Support Systems Test Complex, a large regenerative life support test facility under development at NASA Johnson Space Center. Although plants grow better at above-normal carbon dioxide levels, humans can tolerate even higher carbon dioxide levels. Incinerator exhaust has very high levels of carbon dioxide. An elaborate BIO-Plex design would maintain different atmospheres in the crew and plant chambers and isolate the incinerator exhaust in the airlock. This design option easily controls the crew and plant carbon dioxide levels but it uses many gas processors, buffers, and controllers. If all the crew’s food is grown inside BIO-Plex, all the carbon dioxide required by the plants can be supplied by crew respiration and the incineration of plant and food waste.
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