MELiSSA: THE EUROPEAN PROJECT OF CLOSED LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM
The MELiSSA (Micro-ecological life-support system) project is intended to be a tool to gain understanding of closed life-support systems, and consequently a knowledge base for European development of regenerative life-support systems for long-term manned missions (e.g. lunar base, Mars mission). The driving elements of MELiSSA are the production of food, water, and oxygen from the organic wastes of the mission (e.g., urine, CO2,). Inspired by a terrestrial “aquatic” ecosystem, the MELiSSA process consists of five main sub-processes called compartments, from the anoxygenic thermophilic up to the photo-autrophic (e.g., higher plants). The choice of this compartmentalized structure is required by the very high level of space requirements in terms of robustness and safety. During the 20 years of the project, a very progressive and structured approach has been developed to characterize, model, and control the MELiSSA loop. This approach starts from the selection of the involved sub-processes, up to its predictive control. The project is structured on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and is managed by ESA. It involves roughly 30 organizations encompassing Europe and Canada; eleven of these organizations, called partners, have signed the MOU: University of Ghent, University of Mons-Hainault, Studie Centrum voor Kernergie, Vlamish Institute Technology Onderzoek (B), University of Clermont-Ferrand, Sherpa Engineering, Technomembranes (F), University Autonoma de Barcelona (E), University of Guelph (CDN), IP Star (NL) and the European Space Agency. The project is cofunded by ESA, the MELiSSA partners, and local and national authorities. The project is organized in five phases: basic R&D, preliminary flight experiments, ground and space demonstration, technology transfer, and communication and education. More than a complete status of the project, this paper presents an overview of recent achievements.