Parachute refurbishment facility - Case Study
NASA Parachute Refurbishment Facility - Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Part of the NASA Space Shuttle program included the retrieving and refurbishing of components for reuse, including the Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) parachutes. The parachutes deploy and slow the descent of the SRB’s and help the Boosters land softly in the ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The boosters and other components are retrieved by specialized ocean-going vessels and returned to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) near Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for processing. These parachutes just happen to be the largest parachutes in the world. The parachutes are transported to a specialized facility that clean, inspect, repair, and repack the parachutes for use in future Space Shuttle missions. An important step in the process is the washing of the parachutes to remove ocean salt, algae, seaweed, and other contaminants picked up on the trip.
The Parachute Refurbishment Facility was located within the confines of KSC, in an area rich with wildlife and sensitive wetlands. Therefore, water used to clean the parachutes absolutely could not be discharged into the environment at the facility. United Space Boosters (USBI), a division of Pratt and Whitney, contracted with WaterEnergy and its associates to come up with a method of cleaning and recycling the wastewater. One option was to bury a connection to a distant wastewater treatment facility; due to time and cost considerations, the WaterEnergy recycle/reuse option was recommended.
WaterEnergy began a detailed assessment of existing technologies in the market at the time. Many of the requirements for processing the parachutes demanded using water with very high levels of purity. At the conclusion of the study, WaterEnergy recommended a water treatment system concept that eventually allowed the Shuttle Program to reuse the water to clean the parachutes again and again.
Solution: Develop innovative methods of dissolving ozone gas into solution and using that to replace most of the chemicals used at the Parachute Refurbishment Facility (PRF) to clean the parachutes. Eliminating these chemicals and also using ozone to treat the wastewater allowed the wastewater to be thoroughly cleaned and reused. Other treatment steps were developed, including a special filter to remove silicone without fouling. The exhaustive research conducted concerning the possibility of using ozonated water in the actual laundering of the parachutes was the genesis of the ozone laundry systems we sell today. The final step from WaterEnergy was to deliver a complete design to NASA for construction.
Results: The final project allowed the 30,000 gallons of water used to wash the parachutes to be treated and reused in future refurbishment operations. The ozone treatment and reuse solution was first demonstrated and then successfully deployed to allow the facility to continue operations at its present location. The R&D and exhaustive testing that was prompted by this project led to many discoveries about ozone that were later applied in a multitude of applications including wastewater treatment and commercial laundry.
NASA has recognized WaterEnergy, its affiliates, and the engineering and scientific breakthroughs achieved during the development and implementation of this project as a NASA Spin-Off project.