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Technical Paper

Development of a Low-Power CO2 Removal and Compression System for Closed-Loop Air Revitalization in Future Spacecraft

Continuous removal of carbon dioxide is one of the most critical processes in a spacecraft air revitalization system. Recovery of the waste carbon dioxide and its subsequent conversion to oxygen become essential for long-duration human space missions beyond Low-Earth orbit where re-supply of consumables such as oxygen is neither practical nor economical. The current CO2 removal technology employed in the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the International Space Station (ISS) operates in an open loop mode where the waste CO2 is vented to space. A compressor is required to facilitate CO2 recovery capabilities. The CO2 removal process itself is one of the most energy-intensive processes in the life support system of the ISS due to the water vapor recovery method involved in the process. This paper discusses the design and development of a low-power CO2 removal system that has capabilities to recover and compress the CO2 for recycling oxygen.
Technical Paper

Development Status of a Low-Power CO2 Removal and Compression System for Closed-Loop Air Revitalization

The “low power-CO2 removal (LPCOR) system” is an advanced air revitalization system that is under development at NASA Ames Research Center. The LPCOR utilizes the fundamental design features of the ‘four bed molecular sieve’ (4BMS) CO2 removal technology of the International Space Station (ISS). LPCOR improves power efficiency by replacing the desiccant beds of the 4BMS with a membrane dryer and a state-of-the-art, structured adsorbent device that collectively require 25% of the thermal energy required by the 4BMS desiccant beds for regeneration. Compared to the 4BMS technology, it has the added functionality to deliver pure, compressed CO2 for oxygen recovery. The CO2 removal and recovery functions are performed in a two-stage adsorption compressor. CO2 is removed from the cabin air and partially compressed in the first stage. The second stage performs further compression and delivers the compressed CO2 to a reduction unit such as a Sabatier reactor for oxygen recovery.