A hybrid life support system for a moon base

Gisela Detrell, Stefan Belz, Jens Bretschneider, Reinhold Ewald, Stefanos Fasoulas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


ESA's plan for a Moon Village implies extended human presence on the lunar surface. The Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) of the ISS might not be the most suitable one for this task, as the higher distance from the Earth increases the costs of resupply. A promising option to reduce the required resupply mass, and thus the costs, could be the use of a hybrid system, i.e. combining state-of-the-art technologies with biological components, such as greenhouses or algae bioreactors. Compared to higher plants, algae offer a higher harvest index, higher biomass productivity and require less water. At the Institute of Space Systems (IRS) of the University of Stuttgart, research on algae for space applications has been carried out since 2010. The microalgae Chlorella vulgaris and Scenedesmus obliquus have been satisfactorily cultivated in Flat Plate Airlift reactors. However, before algae photobioreactors (PBR) can be used as an ECLSS component, cultivation and technical issues need to be solved: long-term performance and stability, radiation effects on algae, selection of the required hardware, sizing the system, operation under Moon gravity and downstream processing to edible food. The IRS proposes several steps to solve some of these questions. A continuous cultivation in the laboratory is used to gain knowledge of long-term effects and occurring side contaminants, as well as hardware selection. An algae experiment design, based on the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), is proposed, to allow testing on Moon gravity conditions and under increased radiation load. Finally, an ECLSS simulation, the IRS software tool ELISSA (Environment for Life-Support System Simulation and Analysis) is applied to size the system and its requirements, and compare it with an ECLSS using ISS technologies. This paper gives an overview on the advancements in several research projects and their potential application on a Moon base, with special emphasis on the advantages of using a microalgae PBR for a long duration mission.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication68th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2017
Subtitle of host publicationUnlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security
PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation, IAF
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9781510855373
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event68th International Astronautical Congress: Unlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security, IAC 2017 - Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 25 Sep 201729 Sep 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
ISSN (Print)0074-1795


Conference68th International Astronautical Congress: Unlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security, IAC 2017


  • Algae
  • Chlorella vulgaris
  • Moon base
  • Photobioreactor


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