NASA mission planners continue to develop plans for investigating celestial bodies including Europa, Enceladus, and Mars for potential life detection. Contamination Control and Planetary Protection requirements focus on both forward and backward contamination from such bodies where a number of acceptable processes have been developed for sterilizing spacecraft hardware and sample return materials. In particular, for backward contamination control, NASA has shown that vaporized hydrogen peroxide is an effective method for sterilizing samples and surfaces. However, for long duration exploration missions, stored hydrogen peroxide solutions lose their efficacy. To ensure an effective vaporized hydrogen peroxide sterilization process for return trips, Skyhaven Systems, LLC proposed to develop a miniaturized vapor hydrogen peroxide generator that produces this sterilant in situ using only water and DC electrical energy. With this approach, surfaces and sample return materials can be effectively sterilized during sample collection using a NASA approved sterilant.
This vaporized hydrogen peroxide system is directed towards NASA’s needs for contamination control and planetary protection. Integrating this peroxide generator into sterilization system will enable an effective sterilant to be produced for long duration missions where stored hydrogen peroxide is not feasible. Further, the oxygen and water breakdown products from the sterilization process can be reclaimed minimizing expendable losses.
Commercial opportunities for the hydrogen peroxide generator may be directed toward medical equipment sterilization. Integrating this generator into sterilizers will enable fresh hydrogen peroxide to be generated overcoming storage concerns that can lead to a loss of efficacy over time.