• Braskem and Made In Space will send plastic recycler to the International Space Station

    DATE: 11/07/2019

    Published by: Braskem


    The plastic recycler developed by Made In Space – an American company hired by NASA to develop new technologies for zero-gravity operation – in partnership with Braskem will be launched into space during the 12th commercial replenishment mission undertaken by the company Northrop Grumman (NG12) to the International Space Station. The bold project will be the first commercial plastic recycling operation in the history of space missions.

    The launch is scheduled for 10:59 a.m. on Nov. 2, Brasilia time, at the Wallops Flight Facility, NASA’s flight station on Wallops Island, an island on the east coast of the state of Virginia in the United States. The recycler should arrive at the station two days after launch. The goal is to further expand the autonomy and sustainability of space missions by facilitating the day-to-day lives of astronauts, who may transform plastic waste, which has already fulfilled its useful life in the International Space Station, into raw materials for the development of new items.

    The partnership between the two companies is part of a series of Braskem initiatives in favor of the Circular Economy and is part of Braskem’s project, Printing the Future which in 2016 took to the Space Station a 3D printer that uses Braskem’s PE renewable sourced plastic I’m greenTM, made from sugarcane, for the manufacture of parts in space: “Renewable source plastic I’m greenTM was chosen because it combines characteristics such as flexibility, chemical resistance and recyclability. The ability to print 3D parts and tools on demand increases the reliability and safety of space missions. The recycler in orbit can contribute, for example, to the replacement of damaged parts and the production of tools on demand. In this way, it is possible to close the plastic cycle at the Space Station, reducing the dependence on raw materials sent from Earth”, explains Fabiana Quiroga, director of Circular Economy at Braskem in Latin America.

    The technology used for the recycler to operate in zero gravity was developed by Made in Space and has undergone extensive testing since 2016. The equipment will grind the plastic waste, melt it and then produce a new filament of the same polymer. This filament can then be used in the 3D printer to manufacture new objects. The recycling process is automated and requires minimal intervention by the astronaut team.

    The 3D printer, called the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), which has been in the station since 2016, also counted on Braskem’s polymer technology for its production. The printing surface, used when the printings use I’m greenTM PE, was made of UTEC®, Braskem’s ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (PEUAPM). The first piece printed with I’m greenTM PE, created away from Earth, was a tubing connector for vegetable irrigation.

    “Resources for local manufacturing are critical to space exploration. Demonstrating and validating recycling capabilities on the International Space Station are important steps in developing sustainable manufacturing systems that will enable advancement in solar system studies,” says Michael Snyder, chief engineer at Made In Space.

    “We believe that innovation helps to improve people’s lives, whether here on Earth or in space. On Earth, we are engaged in a joint effort, involving our clients, value chain partners and society in general, to find more sustainable solutions through the use of plastics. One of them is bioplastic I’m green PE itself, the world’s first polyethylene made from a 100% renewable source, which contributes to the reduction of CO2 emissions, one of the greenhouse gases. And, in space, by supporting Made In Space, we have the opportunity to contribute to increasing the autonomy of the missions and optimizing the weight transported,” says Fernando Musa, president of Braskem.

    For two years, Braskem has been investing in the development of technologies for additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. This technology allows you to manufacture a three-dimensional physical object from a digital model by depositing successive layers of material. The petrochemical company is expanding the adoption of polyolefins and PVC in this process and developing a portfolio of ready-to-print materials in the form of filaments for extrusion and powders for laser sintering, which will soon be available to its customers.

    About Made In Space
    Made In Space, Inc. (MIS) is the world’s most experienced space manufacturing company. Founded in 2010 and with offices in Florida, California, Alabama and Ohio, MIS enjoys the unique properties of the space environment to develop solutions for commercial, industrial, research and defense challenges. The company’s vision is to enable the future of space exploration by offering manufacturing capabilities off Earth. For more information about MIS, click here.


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