25 years of research into the ultimate recycling


On 4 November 2014 the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk (the Netherlands) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the MELiSSA project. Belgium has a strong presence in this unique recycling project for manned space missions. SCK•CEN is one of the founders of MELiSSA.

MELiSSA is a miniature life support system that should enable manned space travel to Mars within a few decades. The concept consists of a series of interconnected bioreactors in which drinking water, food and oxygen are recycled from the waste and CO2 produced by the astronauts. The setup: to recycle 100 % of the produced waste.

The Nuclear Research Centre was at the basis of MELiSSA, and is still playing a key role in this project. SCK•CEN conducts research, for example, into the effects of cosmic radiation and weightlessness on the bacteria that are essential for the recycling process.

Under the wings of the European Space Agency (ESA), MELiSSA has developed into a major international research project over the past 25 years. Thanks to support from the federal government, the input from various research institutions, universities and industrial partners, Belgium is considered to play a pioneering role in the development of this life support system.

In the coming decade, ESA aims to test this system in realistic conditions during manned flights in an orbit around the moon. In addition, applications on Earth are also investigated.

The SCK•CEN delegation with Christophe Lasseur, ESA Project Manager

melissa group picture 


From left to right

Rob Van Houdt
Joseba Andoni García Beaumont
Paul Janssen
Sandra Condori Catachura
Hans Vanmarcke (head of Molecular and Cellular Biology)
Max Mergeay (founder of MELiSSA on behalf of SCK•CEN)
Christophe Lasseur (ESA, projectmanager MELiSSA)
Natalie Leys (team leader on behalf of SCK•CEN)
Felice Mastroleo