How Can The Space Technology Help Fight the Global Water Crisis?


 Since it's difficult and expensive to transport water into space, every drop of moisture must be recycled and reused to ensure that astronauts have enough clean water to drink.  Scientific research to improve life in space can lead to developments in space technology that can be also used to improve the lives on Earth, such as providing clean drinking water in areas that need it the most.

Have you ever wondered how do astronauts get water in space? Chinese Space Station (officially the Tiangong space station) is a champion when it comes to water recycling. Astronauts living and working in space stations prefer not to think about it, but the water they drink is recycled from their sweat, exhaled breath, to name a few.

In a series of lectures called “Tiangong Classroom“, Chinese astronauts took a science class for students from 5 cities in the country from space to give them insights into their living and working conditions, including treadmill demonstrations and sipping recycled water.

The “Classroom” is delivered live from space by Shenzhou-13 astronauts, Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping, and Ye Guangfu. The event, on 9 December marked the first time the Tiangong space station became a makeshift classroom for students across Hong Kong and China.

So how do astronauts get clean water and warm meals in space?

Joyoung is a Chinese brand that took the initiative to develop a perfect “space kitchen” that would accommodate the needs of the Tiangong crew. 

"Now we are in the ‘space kitchen’ area. This is where we prepare three meals a day. This is a heating device, which is used to heat the meals that need warming. With the advancement of technology, our space station now has recycled water, and every drop of water in the space station will be used to its fullest."

 The use of water dispensers is crucial in the space station. Due to weightlessness, water would float away from the container in microgravity, so drinking fluids in space require astronauts to suck liquid from a bag through a straw.  One of the common questions is how do astronauts make the best use of every drop of water in the station?

Joyoung had established an aerospace R&D laboratory in strict accordance with the requirements of aerospace. The "space kitchen" project developed by Joyoung includes water purification and food heating equipment to ensure the space crew’s daily clean drinking water and three meals a day.

The relatively confined area of the spacecraft provides an excellent breeding ground for the rapid spread of microorganisms. It suffices to mention that the world's first space stations "Mir" and "International Space Station" have repeatedly experienced operational failures caused by microbial contaminations.

Only adding silver ions in the raw water can effectively inhibit the growth of bacteria. However, long-term drinking of water containing silver ions will cause adverse effects on the human body. Joyoung launched a research and development program that would find a solution to this challenge. After analyzing the raw water data of the space station in detail, a special, high-efficiency small-volume silver removal filter had been developed and introduced in the system, which resulted in efficient removal of silver ions and clean water, without creating any harmful byproducts.

The non-convective environment in space prevents the water from being heated quickly and evenly, and weightlessness causes the water vapor generated by heating to float and leak and damage the equipment. Therefore, the traditional sense of "boiling water" cannot be used in the space station. Joyoung went about it by changing the structure of the filter and innovated instant heating to achieve precise control of water temperature and water volume, allowing astronauts to drink hot water at any time when they are in space.

Water purification systems that are used in ISS are very heavy, have to be replaced every 90 days, and fail to filter out certain contaminants, according to NASA. To reduce the volume and weight of the water purification system and meet the reliability requirements of the spacecraft, Joyoung carefully disassembled every part of the equipment, compared, and selected the best.

Eventually, after hundreds of expert reviews, thousands of simulation tests, and tens of thousands of trials and errors, in 2021, Joyoung Aerospace Water Purification Equipment has been finally tested in the aerospace environment.

On April 29, 2021, the water purifier developed by Joyoung was successfully launched into the China Space Station, guaranteeing clean drinking water for the space crew.

Thanks to this new Joyoung technology, astronauts can now eat steaming fish-flavored pork shreds and Kung Pao chicken in space, which would be impossible without their food heating equipment and the "space kitchen". Aerospace food is mostly packaged in aluminum foil and cannot be directly heated in a microwave oven. The “space kitchen” food heating equipment on the contrary has no packaging restrictions, it can heat up to 360 degrees, ensuring evenly heated food that tastes just like home food.

Scientific research to improve life in space has led Joyoung to developments in space technology that can be also used to improve the lives on Earth. The company is now developing technologies with the potential to provide clean drinking water that can be applied to different life scenarios. This water purifier is inspired by the technology that is used by the astronauts on the space station, and it can produce hot water in seconds. So now all of us can enjoy the “aerospace-quality” clean hot water in the comfort of our homes.