Waste management that’s out of this world: Collins Aerospace developing astronaut trash compaction system

  • By handling trash in situ, system will help enable future missions to the Moon and Mars
  • Proposed design would reduce trash volume by 93 percent, turning two cubic feet of trash into a small disc

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (Dec. 12, 2018) – For decades, theapproach to managing astronaut trash has involved temporarily storing andultimately disposing of the trash either by return to Earth or incinerationduring reentry in a disposable supply vehicle. As NASA pushes the boundaries ofhuman space exploration through longer missions to the Moon and Mars, theseproven approaches will no longer be feasible for several reasons. Returningtrash to Earth will be impractical, jettisoning it during the mission may resultin the loss of valuable recoverable resources and disposing of it locally maypose a planetary protection risk. To solve these challenges, Collins Aerospace,a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX), has proposed an integratedTrash Compaction and Processing System designed to handle astronaut trash insitu.

The highly integrated technical baseline leverages decades of Collins’Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) experience to performsafe recovery and processing of the valuable resources from the trash compactionsystem, minimizing the loss of cabin air while maximizing the amount of waterrecovered. Through the compaction process, the system would reduce trash volumeby 93 percent, turning two cubic feet of trash into a 9”x9”x1.75” disc -essentially reducing something roughly the size of a beer keg to a small pizza.

NASA selected Collins to develop the concept through the agency’s Next SpaceTechnologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) solicitation fortrash compaction and processingsystems. Under NextSTEP-2, Collins will have 18 months to develop and testits design, before NASA conducts a preliminary design review (PDR). A secondphase focused on procurement will follow.

“Astronaut trash poses a significant challenge for future missions to theMoon and Mars,” said Shawn Macleod, senior business manager for Space Systems atCollins Aerospace. “Right now, the crew on the International Space Stationgenerates roughly two cubic feet of trash per day, and a resupply vehicle comesand hauls it away about every four months. On the 18-month journey to Mars, thatwill not be an option. To facilitate longer missions, we need a new way tohandle trash in situ, and our system offers the solution.”

Enabling human space exploration has been a core focus of Collins Aerospacesince the Apollo era of the 1960s. The company has developed and manufacturedseveral key life support system technologies for NASA, including the waterrecovery system currently in use on the International Space Station. In additionto the trash system, Collins is also under contract with NASA to develop theUniversal Waste Management System, which will be the waste management andcollection system astronauts use in deep space.

About Collins Aerospace Collins
Aerospace, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX), is a leader intechnologically advanced and intelligent solutions for the global aerospace anddefense industry. Created in 2018 by bringing together UTC Aerospace Systems andRockwell Collins, Collins Aerospace has the capabilities, comprehensiveportfolio and expertise to solve customers’ toughest challenges and to meet thedemands of a rapidly evolving global market. For more information, visit CollinsAerospace.com.

About United Technologies Corporation
United Technologies Corp., based in Farmington, Connecticut, provideshigh-technology systems and services to the building and aerospace industries.By combining a passion for science with precision engineering, the company iscreating smart, sustainable solutions the world needs. For more informationabout the company, visit our website at www.utc.comor follow us on Twitter: @UTC.

This site uses two types of cookies:


1. Google Analytics Cookies for aggregate, anonymous statistics on the number of visits to the site. These cookies do not allow us to identify you. If you object to these anonymous cookies, click here to learn how to configure your browser to delete these cookies and prevent them from being placed again.


2. A Banner Cookie, which does not track or identify you, but rather makes this cookie banner appear just once.  Click ACCEPT to consent to the cookie, otherwise this banner will continue to appear.