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Tucson Company Works To Improve Space Water Recycling

International Space Station
NASA
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International Space Station.

A Tucson company is developing a water purification system for space travel that will recover up to 98 percent of the liquid from astronauts’ urine for drinking and experiments.

Paragon Space Development got a $5 million grant from NASA to improve a water processing system that is already in use aboard the International Space Station. The goal is to increase the amount of water that can be reused on the orbiting station and eventually for missions to Mars. Now, about 80 percent of the urine is recycled.

Laura Kelsey manages the program for Paragon.

“Our technology recovers that last 20 percent of water out of the urine so they can get up to overall recycling 98 percent of the water on the space station," said Kelsey. "Not only will it save the space station a lot of money but for doing a mission to Mars where you can’t just launch more water along when they run out or when they start getting low.”

The water purification system developed by Paragon uses a series of membranes to distill more water out of the brine. Kelsey said the water that is recovered goes through a second processing to make it potable.

The upgraded processing system will be tested on the space station in 2018.

More About Paragon Space Development

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Sara Hammond has an extensive background in journalism as well as corporate communication. A graduate of the University of Arizona’s (UA) School of Journalism, Hammond interned at the Tucson Citizen and, after graduation, spent 10 years reporting for the Portland Press Herald in Maine.