Made In Space plans to send the first commercially-developed plastic recycling facility to the International Space Station in November. Credit: Made In Space

SAN FRANCISCO — Made In Space announced plans Oct. 21 to send a plastic recycling facility to the International Space Station on a Northrop Grumman commercial cargo resupply flight scheduled for early November. 

The Braskem Recycler is designed to turn plastic waste and 3D printed objects into the type of feedstock that serves as the raw material for the Made in Space Additive Manufacturing Facility on the space station. 

“Local manufacturing resources are a crucial capability for space exploration,” Michael Snyder, Made In Space chief engineer, said in a statement. “Demonstrating and validating recycling capabilities on the ISS is an important step towards developing sustainable manufacturing systems that will enable us to venture deeper into the solar system.”

In 2016, Made in Space and Braskem, the Brazilian petrochemical company that produces biopolyethylene from sugarcane, announced the first part printed in the Made In Space Additive Manufacturing Facility out of the material. 

Since then, the two companies have developed the Braskem Recycler to take in plastic waste and unwanted parts, break them up, apply heat and create spools of feedstock for the Additive Manufacturing Facility. 

Astronauts will load the material but “the recycling process is automated and requires minimal crew intervention,” according to the Made In Space news release. 

Made In Space developed the Recycler through its partnership with Brasken. 

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...