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.