Space engineering focuses on the design of technical solutions for deep Space exploration. The main requirements, particularly in long-duration manned missions, deal with the minimization of the volume, weight, power consumption and cost. In addition, safe procedures are essential. These issues can be optimally addressed by membrane technologies. Membrane engineering has demonstrated on Earth several advantages in the logic of Process Intensification related to the intrinsic low footprint, modularity, high efficiency and low energy consumption.
Space exploration offers new opportunities for science and technology. Great efforts are devoted towards innovative solutions that could be also useful for our daily life.
Significant challenges already tackled by membrane operations such as water desalination, separation of small molecules such as gases, can be translated to solve special challenges of Space missions. Membrane modules can be applied to supply freshwater and energy, as well as to the management of wastes and for the atmosphere cleaning that are among the most urgent needs in human spacecrafts.
This review discusses the membrane share in the Space engineering, starting from successful applications on Earth and focusing on water treatment and on CO2 separation and conversion, addressing also In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) applications in extra-terrestrial environments.