Development of Vapor Phase Hydrogen Peroxide Sterilization Process for Spacecraft Applications
In order to meet microbial reduction requirements for all Mars in-situ life detection and sample return missions, entire planetary spacecraft (including planetary entry probes and planetary landing capsules) may have to be exposed to a qualified sterilization process. At JPL, we are developing a low temperature (~45°C) vapor phase hydrogen peroxide sterilization process. This process is currently being used by the medical industry and its effectiveness is well established. In order to effectively and safely apply this technology to sterilize a spacecraft, which is made out of various man-made materials and electronic circuit boards, the following technical issues need to be resolved: 1. Efficacy of sterilization process. 2. Diffusion of H2O2 under sterilization process conditions into hard to reach places. 3. Materials and components compatibility with the sterilization process. 4. Development of methodology to protect (isolate) sensitive components (i.e. electronic ) from H2O2 vapor.