Enabling Sustainable Space Missions
The Plastic Recycler is a robust, semi-autonomous manufacturing facility capable of processing polyethylene (PE) raw materials into usable 3D printing filament for the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) aboard ISS. The Recycler will complete the plastic sustainability lifecycle on-orbit by providing astronauts the ability to convert plastic packaging and trash as well as objects previously fabricated by the 3D printer into feedstock to be reused by the printer. It will facilitate the reusability of materials to solve new problems as they arise whether on the International Space Station or in future crewed space exploration missions. The invention will improve the autonomy and sustainability of long-duration space missions, while also helping to reduce the cost and weight of payloads carried from earth.
The Plastic Recycler was developed through a partnership with Brazil-based, Braskem, Americas’ largest thermosplastic resin producer. The partnership adopted Green Plastic, a bio-based resin made from sugarcane, for the printing of tools and spare parts by astronauts. GreenTM polyethylene is made from ethylene derived from sugarcane ethanol.
Sustainable Manufacturing in Space: The Made In Space (MIS) Recycler is creating a closed-loop system for manufacturing in space. This facility converts plastic waste into feedstock that can then be used by the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) to create new tools and products in space. The addition of this technology promotes a sustainable supply chain in space that doesn’t rely on feedstock being routinely delivered from Earth.
Essential for Long-Duration Space Missions: The International Space Station (ISS) provides a valuable testbed to validate this new facility which could have significant implications for future exploration missions to the Moon and Mars. A closed-loop manufacturing process in space allows explorers to maximize resources by reconstituting existing objects or plastic waste into new tools. For remote destinations like Mars, where resupply vehicles aren’t an option, these capabilities can be invaluable.
Expanding Commercial Capabilities in Orbit: MIS Recycler is the fourth facility that the company has launched to the ISS. MIS is committed to maximizing the commercial potential of our orbital outpost and continues to add new commercial facilities to extend capabilities on ISS. Additionally, the development of this payload was funded completely through a partnership with Braskem, the world’s largest biopolymer (green plastic) producer.