NASA has awarded Tucson-based Paragon Space Development Corp. a contract for the full-scale development of a water-purification system to be demonstrated on the International Space Station in 2018.

The system is designed to increase the rate of water recovery from the urine of astronauts aboard the space station.

The contract is valued at $5.1 million for the delivery of one processor assembly, and is sponsored by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division, NASA said.

Work on the contract will be performed at Paragon Space Development’s Tucson facilities.

NASA said the technology, currently scheduled for flight in 2018, will undergo a test demonstration on the space station to verify it further closes the “water loop,” with a goal of achieving at least 94 percent recovery of water from urine.

A water-recovery system already used on the station captures and processes astronaut urine, but additional unrecovered water remains in the resulting effluent, which will be put through the new system for further reclamation.

Paragon’s says its Ionomer-membrane Water Processor will provide the platform for up to 98 percent water recovery in future deep-space-exploration missions.

The contract follows a Small Business Innovation Research Phase III contract awarded by NASA to Paragon earlier this year for IWP development.

“We are looking forward to increasing the ISS water cycle closure, thereby significantly reducing expensive water deliveries from Earth and saving valuable taxpayer dollars,” Grant Anderson, Paragon president and CEO, said in a news release.

Paragon will follow up this work with operational systems for many future missions that NASA and the private sector have in their plans.

Paragon is actively working with other contractors that are preparing to supply the future habitats for low-Earth orbit and long-duration missions.

Paragon said its water-purification system has several applications on Earth, including water recovery and purification of briny water such as that recovered from oil wells, fracking and other industrial processes.

Since its founding in 1993, Paragon has been involved in numerous projects for NASA, and more recently with private space-exploration companies, including development of environmental control and life-support systems, space suits and flight systems.

Senior reporter covering business and technology for the Arizona Daily Star/Tucson.com