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  • Atmosphere revitalization for manned spacecraft - an assessment of technology readiness

    Paper ID



    • Franck H. Samonski Jr.
    • John M. Neel


    NASA Johnson Space Center






    Regenerative processes for the revitalization of atmosphere in a manned spacecraft cabin attaining the highest level of development processes involves three steps: carbon dioxide (C02) collection; C02 reduction; and the electrolysis of water (H20). Various concepts have been demonstrated in the laboratory for accomplishing each of these steps. The objective of this paper is to assess the level of proficiency attained by those processes that have the greatest potential for successfully accomplishing a regenerative revitalization of the spacecraft atmosphere. Atmospheric revitalization embraces physical and chemical processes necessary to the provision of a habitable atmospheric environment within spacecraft. The Skylab Program marks the beginning of the use of regenerative techniques. Figure 1 depicts a simplified schematic of the atmosphere revitalization and control functions. Viewed in its simplest sense, the metabolic output- of the crew is processed through a concentrator where C02 is removed from the atmosphere and concentrated as the first step in the revitalization process. The Sabatier process is used to reduce the C02 in the presence of hydrogen (H2) to methane (CH4) and water. Methane is not used in the revitalization process. The water is routed to the electrolysis unit for conversion to H2, which is used in the Sabatier process and oxygen (02 ) for crew consumption. The major loop of the revitalization process is completed. While not discussed in detail, pressure control equipment regulates and supplies the required gases to maintain habitable spacecraft environment. A portion of the atmosphere is routed through contaminant removal equipment for control of other contaminants introduced into the closed atmosphere by man and machine.