Aquaporin technology selected for 2023 International Space Station mission

Aquaporin Space Alliance (ASA), a joint venture between Aquaporin and Danish Aerospace Company (DAC), is heading into space next year when Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen will test Aquaporin technology at the International Space Station (ISS).

Andreas Mogensen testing an Aquaporin membrane on the International Space Station on his last mission in 2015.
Andreas Mogensen testing an Aquaporin membrane on the International Space Station on his last mission in 2015.

In total, ten projects and experiments have been chosen for the mission to ISS in 2023. The ASA project is twofold and will test both forward osmosis and membrane distillation.

“To be selected for another flight test and continue our work with applying the Aquaporin Inside technology to water recovery in extreme environments is a great honour and proves that we are on the right track,” said Jörg Vogel, VP of Open Innovation at Aquaporin. “The collaboration with Danish Aerospace Company within the Aquaporin Space Alliance is always inspiring, and projects like this are driving innovation not only for the space application, but also within Aquaporin for our membrane and application development. With this test, we will prove the feasibility of the two subunits of our full Water Recovery Unit, which will hopefully be tested in space within this decade as well.”

ASA has previously been tasked with developing an improved and more efficient water recycling system for spaceflights, and this system will now be tested further on the ISS.

The new, semi-closed loop water recycling system is a dual loop system that consists of a primary loop powered by Aquaporin’s patented Aquaporin Inside technology. The system will use Aquaporin’s Hollow Fiber Forward Osmosis membrane to clean the astronauts’ wastewater. Water will be driven through the membrane by an osmotic driving force, and the membrane will hold back all contaminants and thus ensure that only clean water makes the journey into the salty draw solution.

On the 2023 ISS mission, ASA will also be examining membrane distillation which separates clean water from the draw solution using thermal energy.

The two tests will investigate the water transport ability of the two-part system. In space, the lack of gravity reduces the efficiency of the semipermeable membranes, and the tests are meant to examine and quantify the performance of both technologies so they can be tailored to future space missions.

The two experiments are part of the same system but will be examined one by one before they are combined in a full water purification process. Aquaporin says that the extensive data and knowledge acquired through the experiment will help develop a fully transportable water treatment system which allows wastewater to be recycled in space on a larger and more efficient scale than today and thereby ultimately helps realize space missions to Mars and beyond.