Space station residents could soon get a new choice for drinking water beyond urine, sweat, and vapor. A water generation system which can extract water from hydrogen and carbon dioxide waste products has reached the space station, according to Aviation Week.
The Sabatier Reactor System could create as much as 2,000 pounds of water per year when it officially goes online in several months. It uses the chemical process discovered by French Nobel laureate and chemist Paul Sabatier, who found that elevated temperatures and pressures could turn hydrogen and carbon dioxide into methane and water.
All the methane byproduct will be vented into space for now, but engineers have plans to eventually process the methane into hydrogen and carbon. Hydrogen could then be combined with oxygen to produce even more water or serve as fuel, leaving only the carbon as the waste product.
But the water will feed into the space station's waste-water system for additional treatment before it gets used. That would help supplement the urine recycler whenever astronauts get thirsty, and would also help the space station survive the new era following the retirement of the space shuttle.
Commercial spaceflight providers such as SpaceX would continue supplying the orbital outpost, but NASA aims to make it as self-sufficient as possible. Hopefully the savings on reduced launch costs outweigh the $65 million contract awarded to Hamilton Sundstrand for having the new service available to astronauts through September 2014.
[via Aviation Week]
So over the life of the contract, the system will generate 1125 gallons of water, or approximately 9,000 pounds. Divided by $65 million, we have a cost of $57,000/gallon. If conventional space freight costs $10,000/pound to launch, that works out to $80,000/gallon. Either way, that water is worth its weight in gold.
Thats a good point but watter is easy to transport, liquid hydrogen is not. The cost of hydrogen delivered to the ISS almost certainly much more than 22k per kg, and to create each water molecule you borrow 2 hydrogens that you save and waist 4.
From a cost point of view, when you add in the contract cost plus the cost to launch the system and the cost of all the hydrogen that will be dumped I don't know if its such a sweet deal.
From a scientific point of view this think is awesome especial if they end up recovering the hydrogens. We can use this kinda stuff on the moon and mars too.
A refueling air tanker can move 2,000 pounds of fluid in one second. It could match a year of this devise in, one, second. So, a simple high tech pipe could beat this in a blink. Simply hybrid the space tether with a Sky Pipe to pump the water and shielding we need to leave our magnophere. Because there are limitations to pumping fluid we could pump gases instead. We could pump lots of hydrogen and lots oxygen to make water, and take the high ground of synchronous orbit, the moon, and even Terri form Mars. A pipe into space could be used by planes to pick up bags of fuel just out of the atmosphere to lift them into synchronous orbit and to the moon. One thing is clear we could pump tons of water into space, at tons per day, or if a fluid is possible, at tons per second. This is better then climbing the tether to get the one thing in space that makes living beyond our planet possible, water. Water could not only make space more livable and comfortable it could also Terri form Mars. A huge fourteen mile diameter shield made of Kevlar filled with water in a gel form could block the main solar wind to Mars. Close to the Sun and in Mars synchronous, orbit it would only need to be fourteen miles in diameter. Yes, I’m basically proposing a solar diaper for Mars, but if we don’t reach beyond our planet we might as well be another monkey flinging shit.
If I stop thinking in a purest fashion we could make a rotor sky pipe that spins like a big space water wheel. Small rockets on the ends keep it in orbit, and fuel is pumped in at two thousand pounds per second by air craft refueling tanker. Although pumping up the whole length may not be possible it still gets rotated into space at the ends, a big space water or fuel wheel. Bags are filled when the end is outside the atmosphere and an air craft like space ship one can pick that fuel up to fly into space instead of rocketing. Hans Movics design but much smaller cheaper with larger payloads of fluid and fuel then ever imagined before. A modest improvement in current space tethers, and cheaper then a space shuttle launch.
What kind of elevated temperatures and pressures are needed for this process? I was just wondering if it would be a feasible process to prevent the carbon sequestration process. Methane could be used as a fuel to reach the higher temperatures and pressures.
Gatzby, that's a terrible proposition. Most hydrogen is MADE from natural gas.
The reaction occurs in a two steps, gasification and water gas shift, with the combined reaction being: CH4 + 2H2O -> CO2 + 4H2 + 151 kJ/mol. This is the exact reverse of the reaction you are proposing for CO2 recycling.
If there was a very cheap way to make hydrogen gas you would never bother using natural gas as a fuel in the first place, you'd just use it as a chemical feedstock for carbon-containing chemicals like medicines, plastics, silicones, pesticides and acetylene.
Here comes non-natural chemical water!
@martindanny as opposed to non-chemical water? What is that and where can I find some?
HAHAHA, yeah, my body doesn't like water that's made out of chemicals
I was merely throwing an idea out there. I am not a chemist or any type of engineer. I was using the theory of the by-product methane to be used as way to heat up the hydrogen and the CO2. Maybe there is other uses for the methane, if its a backwards process as you state. I know sending a frequency into water separates the hydrogen and oxygen, another by-product of the process. I don't know if this could produce enough hydrogen to meet the needs of the process. Again this was an idea thrown out and looking forward to hearing again from you Soylent.