Next Generation Life Support (NGLS)


The Next Generation Life Support project develops technologies needed for humans to live and work safely and productively in space

NGLSThe Next Generation Life Support (NGLS) project is developing new technologies to enable critical capabilities for Environmental Control and Life Support (ECLS), Extravehicular Activity (EVA), and in situ resource utilization (ISRU), required to extend human presence beyond low Earth orbit into the solar system. The selected technologies within each of these areas are focused on increasing safety, performance, affordability and vehicle self-sufficiency while decreasing requirements for consumables and other vehicle resources, including mass, volume and power. The primary project goal is to advance the maturity of candidate technologies and infuse them into Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) projects for eventual flight demonstration and utilization.

In the image to the right, the NGLS Variable Oxygen Regulator and Rapid Cycle Amine Swingbed technologies were integrated into a prototype spacesuit Portable Life Support System (PLSS) and evaluated during Human-In-The-Loop testing in cooperation with our Advanced Exploration Systems customer partner.

Environmental control and life support systems on the International Space Station are only partially closed, require resupply, use toxic chemicals to prevent fouling and cannot treat all waste streams likely for human exploration missions away from Earth. Modern space suits contain hardware that limit the duration of EVAs and have limited flexibility across missions. Issues of mobility, fit, and durability of space suit gloves need to be addressed to meet performance challenges of exploration missions and to address factors implicated in injury and fatigue.

NGLS seeks to address these issues by providing several novel solutions:

High Performance EVA Glove (HPEG)
We are developing new gloves and glove concepts that address mobility, fit, and durability to meet performance challenges of exploration missions. State-of-the-art spacesuit gloves for EVA have limited life, severely limit hand mobility and contribute to a large fraction of injuries observed during crew training and spaceflight. We have researched mechanisms for hand injury and have generated quantitative standards for evaluation of glove performance. This work is expected to be completed at the end of fiscal year 2017.

SpaceCraft Oxygen Recovery (SCOR)
SCOR seeks to develop alternative carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction technologies that increase oxygen (O2) recovery beyond the State-of-the-Art (≈50%) to approach 100%. The state-of-the-art Atmosphere Revitalization System (ARS) on the ISS is only partially closed. A significant amount of O2 is not recycled and is lost to space as unprocessed CO2. Further closure is necessary to reduce launch mass and to increase space vehicle self-sufficiency, enabling long duration human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. This work is expected to be completed at the end of fiscal year 2019.

Bioregenerative Closed Loop Life Support
Currently all foods consumed during spaceflight are supplied from Earth. Stored food represents the largest expected non-propulsion consumable mass for human spaceflight. For a long duration exploration mission to be truly autonomous, growing food in situ will be necessary. Through the biological processes of photosynthesis and transpiration, higher plants can also contribute to atmosphere revitalization and water recycling. This task investigates crop plants for an initial “pick-and-eat” food production system for spaceflight.

In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)
The goal of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is to harness and utilize resources at the site of exploration, such as on the surface of Mars, to generate needed consumables rather than transporting them from Earth, thus significantly reducing the mass, cost, and risk of long duration human space exploration. Targeted consumables include propellants, such as oxygen, hydrogen and methane, and life support consumables, such as oxygen and water. This task investigates several aspects of ISRU including recovery of water from Mars regolith, the production of oxygen and methane from Mars atmosphere and mitigating issues with planetary dust.

Variable Oxygen Regulator (VOR)
This advanced pressure regulator allows, for the first time, continuous control of suit pressure, resulting in higher levels of safety, operation flexibility, mission applicability for extra-vehicular activity. Designed with safety first, it is robust, tolerant of contamination and combustion events. Completed in fiscal year 2015, the technology was transitioned to our Advanced Exploration Systems customer, the Advanced Space Suit Project.

Rapid Cycle Amine (RCA) Swingbed
This dual function component for the space suit ventilation system removes both carbon dioxide and humidity from the atmosphere within the pressurized space suit. The system is regenerative, thus there is nothing consumed that would limit the duration of extra-vehicular activity. The mass and complexity of a spacesuit’s Portable Life Support System (PLSS) would be reduced, given that beds won’t have to be changed out and that condensing heat exchangers and air-water separators won’t be necessary for humidity control. Completed in fiscal year 2015, the technology was transitioned to our Advanced Exploration Systems customer, the Advanced Space Suit Project.

Alternative Water Processor
This novel hybrid bioregenerative/physicochemical technology is a “green” alternative for spacecraft water recycling. There are two major components to the system: 1) a Biological Water Processor (BWP) that mineralizes organic carbon and nitrogen compounds; 2) a Forward Osmosis Secondary Treatment (FOST) subsystem that removes mineral salts. It is capable of treating a wider range of wastewater types including a complex wastewater stream that includes urine, condensate, hygiene water (including hand wash and shower), and laundry. Completed at the end of fiscal year 2014, the technology was transitioned to our Advanced Exploration Systems customer, the Life Support Systems project.

Principal Technologist Project Manager
Molly Anderson ( ) Daniel Barta (


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