You may not know it, but NASA could be searching for a person just like you … to help take out its trash. It’s a bit more exciting that that sounds, though. Instead of looking for a janitor to help empty the trash bins at NASA’s headquarters in Washington D.C., the world renowned space agency is turning to outsiders with bright ideas to help it figure out better ways of getting rid of the tons of garbage that will be produced by astronauts on future deep space missions.
NASA’s request for partners to develop concepts for potential Trash Compaction and Processing Systems (TCPS) was laid out in a recent document issued through the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP). In a section titled “Logistics Reduction in Space by Trash Compaction and Processing System,” they noted that:
“NASA’s ultimate goal is to develop capabilities to enable missions that are not reliant on resupply from Earth thus making them more sustainable and affordable. NASA is implementing this by employing a capability-driven approach to its human spaceflight strategy. The approach is based on developing a suite of evolving capabilities that provide specific functions to solve exploration challenges. These investments in initial capabilities can continuously be leveraged and reused, enabling more complex operations over time and exploration of more distant solar system destinations.”
There are four key objectives that any successful concept will tackle. These include finding a way to compact trash in a suitable form for long-term storage, processing trash to reduce the risk of health hazards, stabilizing it “physically, geometrically, and biologically,” and managing gaseous, aqueous, and particulate effluents.
NASA has long been working on its own solutions to these problems, such as turning trash into gas. It has also explored a recycling device used for recovering residual water from astronaut’s garbage.
NASA plans to meet with industry partners on July 24 to explain exactly what it’s looking for. Official proposals from organizations will be due no later than August 22, and whichever ones make the grade will then be tested on the International Space Station over the next decade.
Before you get too excited and start busting out sketches under the banner of your home business, though, be aware that private companies must be willing to contribute a minimum 10 percent of the development costs for any systems which go ahead!