Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Environmental Engr. (M.S.E.V.)

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Daniel H. Yeh, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Luke Roberson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stephanie Carey, Ph.D.


Anaerobic Digestion, Environmental Control and Life Support Systems, Membrane Bioreactors, Planetary Base, Wastewater


Long-Duration, Deep-Space Human Exploration (LoDDSHE) missions demand robust and reliable technologies to ensure crew health, safety, and mission success. In situ food production will become essential for these missions for crew nutrition, morale, and in the event of delays or failures. At a current estimated cost $10,000/lb, mass and volume limitations will restrict necessary resources. For an anticipated thirty-month mission to Mars, these costs will increase due to more frequent resupply shipments and lengthened transit times, creating additional financial and logistical challenges (Pickett et al., 2019). Increased resource and waste recovery to achieve nearly closed-loop systems will mitigate many of these financial and logistical challenges. Organic wastes (i.e., fecal and food) offer a renewable source of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous (C, N, P), water and other trace elements to sustain water and food production. However, these high-strength waste streams are difficult to treat due to factors such as heterogeneity, complexity, high solids content, and presence of pathogens. Currently, there are no flight-ready technologies capable of treating mixed organic wastes, underlining a technology gap for future space missions (Pickett et al., 2019).

To address this, a prototype Organic Processor Assembly (OPA) was developed through a collaboration between the University of South Florida (USF) and the National Aerospace and Space Administration’s (NASA) Kennedy Space Center (KSC). An Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor (AnMBR), a hybrid technology coupling anaerobic digestion with membrane filtration, forms the heart of the OPA. It was designed for an early planetary base (EPB) scenario to aid in closing the resource recovery loop, thus decreasing resupply dependence.

The scope of work presented here covers: the design, development, preliminary evaluation of the OPA. This thesis describes a compact and robust system design, TRL advancement from one to three, solids removal above 95%, and organic removal above 85%. Future research and development include further optimization of system safety and reliability, expanded treatment capabilities, and integration into a human life support system architecture.