Open Loop Life Support Systems

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Open Loop Life Support Systems are environmental control systems that maintain a livable environment in a sealed enclosure, such as a submarine or spacecraft. These life support systems include everything from the most efficient environmental control systems available today to some of the most basic means of sustaining life in a sealed environment. The ISS uses an open loop life support system, albeit one which does recycle some of its supplies. Most manned spacecraft flying today employ simpler open loop systems. Unlike a Closed Loop Life Support System, an open loop system does not recycle its supply of at least one essential material required for life support. Thus, the operation of an open loop life support system is limited by the supplies it is stocked with.

Basic Components

The simplest possible open loop systems consist only of tanks of breathable air and the regulators necessary to deliver it at a breathable rate. Waste gases can be discarded directly, after the fashion of traditional SCUBA gear. More complex systems, such as those employed on spacecraft, provide food, water, and other supplies needed to sustain the lives of the crew on an extended basis. Extended duration life support also requires more than just supplies. Systems for environmental control (such as humidity control and rebreathers) and waste handling become necessary to sustain life.

External Links

Mars Homestead Project

Life Support Systems for Spacecraft