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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Non-Intrusive, Distributed Gas Sensing Technology for Advanced Spacesuits

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Project Description

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Advances in spacesuits are required, to support the ISS and future human exploration. Spacesuit development and ground-based testing require sensing and analytical instrumentation for characterizing and validating prototypes. While miniature thermosensors measure reliably at low cost, and can be incorporated all around spacesuit prototypes, incorporating gas sensors at locations of interest inside a spacesuit has been a significant challenge – in particular for human subject tests – because of the size and cost of available instrumentation. The sensor probes and cables must not restrict the suit or human subjects' mobility, and must not disturb the gas flow. Intelligent Optical System is developing luminescence-based sensing patches for non-intrusive monitoring of critical life support gas constituents and potential trace contaminants in spacesuits. Flexible sensitive patches inside prototype spacesuits are interrogated via optical fibers, and do not disturb the gas flow or the human subject. This will give suit engineers great flexibility for choosing multiple sensing points, fitting the sensor elements into the spacesuit, and cost effectively relocating the sensor elements as desired. In Phase I, a first demonstrator was validated at Johnson Space Center by comparison with current instrumentation used in the Suited Manikin Test Apparatus. Phase II will produce an advanced system ready for integration into NASA programs, and for commercialization (TRL9).

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