Skip to main content

An insect bioreactor for increased circularization of ECLSS economy (ECLSS Insect Bioreactor)



Prime contractor
Organisational Unit
Implementation progress
01 November 2022

Duration: 18 months


Orbital and planetary habitats need solutions for increased sustainability through circularization of processes in ECLSS. Some solutions will be high in the ‘yuck’ index – like this one. We propose to develop a prototype of an ECLSS bioreactor based on the use of insects. Insects efficiently process all kinds of organic matter, including shredded plastics. One kilogram of roaches is about 350 grams of dry matter (dry weight is 50-55% protein, 30% fat, 10-15% chitin). To obtain a kilogram of fresh weight of roaches, we need up to 6 kg of biomass. The complete development cycle of roaches depends on environmental conditions and lasts from 2 to 8 months. In terrestrial conditions, roaches, due to their potential and numerous evolutionary adaptations, are used for waste disposal. Under the conditions of a space mission, roaches in a closed bioreactor could utilize all kinds of organic waste generated during the mission, while accumulating nutrients in the form of their biomass and producing the fertilizer necessary for plant cultivation. The metabolic water of roaches could be recovered. The subject of the project is a bioreactor for organic waste processing to obtain protein, chitin as a source of biopolymers, and micronutrients to support the cultivation of edible plants. The operation of the bioreactor is based on the use of the natural ability of insects to process organic matter in closed systems. The bioreactor is an autonomous system that enables the processing of biomass in real-time under controlled environmental conditions. The system will be equipped with sensors enabling the control of environmental parameters (humidity, temperature, gas concentration) and a system of locks allowing full control over the flow of biomass. Additionally, the condensing system will allow the recovery of water from biomass. The input biomass will be a representative mixture of ISS waste.The system will be compatible and synergistic with other life support systems, including microalgae.

Contract number
OSIP Idea Id
Related OSIP Campaign
Open Channel
Main application area
An insect bioreactor for increased circularization of ECLSS economy (ECLSS Insect Bioreactor)