The technical feasibility of applying leachbed high-solids anaerobic digestion for reduction and stabilization of the organic fraction of solid wastes generated during space missions was investigated. This process has the advantages of not requiring oxygen or high temperature and pressure while producing methane, carbon dioxide, nutrients, and compost as valuable products. Anaerobic biochemical methane potential assays run on several waste feedstocks expected during space missions resulted in ultimate methane yields ranging from 0.23 to 0.30 L g-1 VS added. Modifications for operation of a leachbed anaerobic digestion process in space environments were incorporated into a new design, which included; (1) flooded operation to force leachate through densified feedstock beds; and (2) separation of biogas from leachate in a gas collection reservoir. This mode of operation resulted in stable performance with 85% conversion of a typical space solid waste blend, and a methane yield of 0.3 Lg per g VS added after a retention time of 15 days. These results were reproduced in a full-scale prototype system. A detailed analysis of this process was conducted to design the system sized for a space mission with a six-person crew. Anaerobic digestion compared favorably with other technologies for solid waste stabilization.

This content is only available as a PDF.