Braskem and Made in Space Inc. bring recycling technology to International Space Station

Brazil-based Braskem (São Paulo), said to be the Americas’ largest thermoplastic resin producer, has finalized a deal with NASA supplier Made In Space Inc. (Jacksonville, FL) to develop the first recycling technology to be used on space missions in zero gravity.

International Space Station
Image of the International Space Station courtesy NASA.

The agreement, which was finalized in October, will continue the collaboration between the two companies, which previously resulted in the first use of commercial 3D printing technology in space. This innovative technology revolutionized space manufacturing by enabling astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to fabricate mission-critical tools and spare parts on-demand from Braskem’s I’m Green biobased resin made from sugarcane.

The recycler, which is slated to reach the ISS in the second half of 2018, will complete the plastic lifecycle by allowing astronauts to convert plastic packaging and objects previously fabricated by the 3D printer into feedstock that can be reused by the printer.

“Taking the first plastic recycler into space is a massive challenge and a source of great pride for Braskem,” said Braskem’s Director of Innovation & Technology Patrick Teyssoneyre. “This second phase of our partnership with Made In Space will close the plastic cycle sustainably, from the production of green polyethylene made from sugarcane to the recycling of polymers for other applications.”

The invention will improve the autonomy and sustainability of long-duration space missions, while helping to reduce the cost and weight of payloads carried from Earth, said a release from Akerman LLP, a law firm that assisted Braskem in the negotiation and drafting of its agreement with Made In Space. The project was led by Miami Partner Felipe Berer in the Corporate Practice Group and Chicago Partner Stacy Baim in the Intellectual Property Practice Group.

“We built  upon the knowledge we gained from Braskem’s first agreement with Made In Space, which enabled us not only to satisfy all of our client’s wishes but also complete the deal within a shorter timeframe,” said Baim. “We were fortunate to have equally motivated partners and a high level of collaboration to quickly move this venture forward.”

Berer added, “This agreement to build a recycler establishes a new standard for plastics innovation in space. The technology will close the loop in on-demand manufacturing while utilizing Braskem’s green plastic, one of the greatest innovations in polymers.”

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