Enabling in-situ resource utilization in space through gas fermentation: testing novel gas delivery methods in a microgravity environment

PI: Allison Pieja, Joseph Lampe (Co-I), Mango Materials Inc.

The Enabling In-situ Resource Utilization in Space Through Gas Fermentation demonstration will evaluate a membrane-based bioreactor (MBR) designed to convert methane into polyhydoxybutyrate (PHA) biopolymer. This could enable sustainable additive manufacturing in space using in-situ resources. The objectives of a parabolic flight test with Zero Gravity Corporation are to optimize, adapt, and evaluate the MBR system’s mass transfer in microgravity. The flight test will also determine the most efficient of two types of hollow fiber membranes.

Technology Areas (?)
  • NA
Problem Statement

Sustainable additive manufacturing in space requires a polymer that can be created from available in situ resources. Gas-fed fermentations could be a key solution to this challenge, however, the rate of gas dissolutionis limiting in most systems and current methods rely on gravity and hydrostatic pressure.

Technology Maturation

Flight tests will validate the membrane-based bioreactor’s mass transfer capabilities in reduced gravity, advancing the technology to TRL 5. Specifically, this demonstration will evaluate the MBR’s method of gas dissolution that does not rely on gravity and uses hydrophobic, dense, and hollow-fiber membranes. As methane is readily available in any space habitation, this system could enable sustainable in-situ manufacturing.

Future Customers

•Crewed long-duration space exploration missions
•Potential for integration in the International Space Station’s Environmental Control and Life Support System
•Lunar surface habitats

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    TechFlights20 (Sep 2020)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 Parabolic

Development Team

  • PI
    Allison Pieja
  • PI Organization
    Mango Materials Inc.
  • Co-I
    Joseph Lampe
  • Co-I Organization
    Mango Materials Inc.
  • Sponsor

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