Thermal Performance of Space Suit Elements with Aerogel Insulation for Moon and Mars Exploration 2006-01-2235
Flexible fiber-reinforced aerogel composites were studied for use as insulation materials of a future space suit for Moon and Mars exploration. High flexibility and good thermal insulation properties of fiber-reinforced silica aerogel composites at both high and low vacuum conditions make it a promising insulation candidate for the space suit application. This paper first presents the results of a durability (mechanical cycling) study of these aerogels composites in the context of retaining their thermal performance. The study shows that some of these Aerogels materials retained most of their insulation performance after up to 250,000 cycles of mechanical flex cycling. This paper also examines the problem of integrating these flexible aerogel composites into the current space suit elements. Thermal conductivity evaluations are proposed for different types of aerogels space suit elements to identify the lay-up concept that may have the best overall thermal performance for both Moon and Mars environments. Potential solutions in mitigating the silica dusting issue related to the application of these aerogels materials for the space suit elements are also discussed.