Paragon Looks to Extract Water From Brine on Other Worlds

NASA recently announced that it would be conducting contract negotiations for 350 projects under its SBIR and STTR programs, which are aimed at promoting space technology development by small businesses. Parabolic Arc will be looking at a number of the proposals involving NewSpace companies that it regularly covers or which encompass interesting technologies.

This post looks at an SBIR proposal from Paragon Space Development Corporation, a rapidly growing Arizona company whose expertise lies in life-support systems. The project involves extracting water from brine to support human missions to other worlds. A cool idea, but the bigger question is: can it turn the water in wine? That would be really profitable. And miraculous to boot!

COMPANY:Paragon Space Development Corporation
Location:Tucson, AZ
PROPOSAL TITLE:Employing Ionomer Membrane Technology to Extract Water from Brine
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Process Technologies for Life Support System Loop Closure


Paragon Space Development Corporation proposes the use of an microporous-ionomer membrane pair to improve the robustness and effectiveness of membrane-based water separation processes. Improved robustness and effectiveness will be evident through (1) reduced loading on the downstream post processor due to the ionomer’s unique property of selective permeability, and (2) inclusion of a backup barrier between the rententate and permeate. The microporous membrane’s function is to prevent liquid wastewater from direct contact with the ionomer, a condition that would reduce the effectiveness of the ionomer. The ionomer’s unique characteristic of selective permeability suggests a possible role in water purification processes. This activity is accomplished by means of the sulfonic acid groups. It is this property that we wish to exploit.


Contemplated long-duration missions to the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, and Mars will be mass-constrained. The successful development and application of NafionREG membrane technology to spacecraft water processing will lead to improvements in the efficiency, robustness, and reliability of these systems. These improvements will in turn translate directly into safety improvements and mass reductions.


The non-NASA applications are significant as fresh water demands are becoming a serious problem at many regions of the planet. The technology generated here may very well help improve the efficiency and/or portability of terrestrial-based water recovery systems.


Waste Storage/Treatment

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 3