Evaluation of Carbon Dioxide Sensors for the Constellation Space Suit Life Support System for Surface Exploration 2009-01-2372
This paper presents the findings of the trade study to evaluate carbon dioxide (CO2) sensing technologies for the Constellation (Cx) space suit life support system for surface exploration. The trade study found that non-dispersive infrared absorption (NDIR) is the most appropriate high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) technology for the CO2 sensor for the Cx space suit. The maturity of the technology is high, as it is the basis for the CO2 sensor in the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU). The study further determined that while there is a range of commercial sensors available, the Cx CO2 sensor should be a new design. Specifically, there are light sources (e.g., infrared light emitting diodes) and detectors (e.g., cooled detectors) that are not in typical commercial sensors due to cost. These advanced technology components offer significant advantages in performance (weight, volume, power, accuracy) to be implemented in the new sensor. The exact sensor design (light source, transmitting optics, path length, receiving optics and detector) will be specific for the Cx space suit and will be determined by the performance requirements of the Cx space suit. The paper further identifies specifications for some of the critical performance parameters as well as discussing the engineering aspects of implementing the sensor into the Portable Life Support System (PLSS).
The paper then presents testing results from three CO2 sensors with respect to issues important to Extravehicular Activity (EVA) applications; stability, humidity dependence and low pressure compatibility. The three sensors include two NDIR sensors, one commercial and one custom-developed by NASA (for a different purpose), and one commercial electrochemical sensor. The results show that both NDIR sensors have excellent stability, no dependence on ambient humidity (when the ambient temperature is above the dew point) and operate in low pressure conditions and after being exposed to a full vacuum. The commercial electrochemical sensor was not suitable for the Cx space suit for surface exploration.
Finally, the paper identifies a number of techniques currently under development that offer significant advantages for EVA applications. These include miniaturized, room temperature, solid electrolyte systems and advanced optical detectors.