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Technical Paper

Thermal Performance of Space Suit Elements with Aerogel Insulation for Moon and Mars Exploration

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.
Technical Paper

Mechanical Properties and Durability Study of Aerogel-Base Thermal Insulation for Advanced Space Suit

Fiber-reinforced Aerogel composite insulations provide superior thermal insulation protection in both the low-earth orbit (LEO) and near-earth neighborhood planetary environments. The flexible nature and thermal properties of these materials make them the best insulation candidates for advanced space suit application. This paper reviews the properties of various Aerogel composite materials developed for NASA by Aspen Systems, Inc. Previous studies showed that the Aerogel materials retained acceptable thermal performance after some amount of mechanical cycling. The goal of the current work is to reach a complete understanding of the mechanical properties of these materials in the domain of space suit application. Hence, a good knowledge of the durability of the aerogel composites is needed. This paper presents the extensive testing program needed to determine the life of these insulations for advanced space suit application.
Technical Paper

Aerogel-Based Insulation for Advanced Space Suit

Future spacesuits will require thermal insulation protection in low-earth orbit (LEO), in the near-earth neighborhood and in planetary environments. In order to satisfy all future exploration needs and lower production and maintenance costs, a common thermal insulation is desirable that will perform well in all these environments. A highly promising material is a fiber-reinforced aerogel composite insulation currently being developed at the Johnson Space Center. This paper presents an overview of aerogels and their manufacture, a summary of the development of a flexible fiber-based aerogel for NASA by Aspen Aerogels, Inc., and performance data of aerogels relative to flexible commercial insulation. Finally, future plans are presented of how an aerogel-based insulation may be integrated into a spacesuit for ground testing as well as for a flight configuration.
Technical Paper

Thermal Conductivity of Lofty Nonwovens in Space and Planetary Vacuum Environment

For planetary exploration, new thermal insulation materials are needed to deal with unique environmental conditions presented to extravehicular activity (EVA). The thermal insulation material and system used in the existing space suit were specifically designed for low orbit environment. They are not adequate for low vacuum condition commonly found in planetary environments with a gas atmosphere. This study attempts to identify the types of lofty nonwoven thermal insulation materials and the construction parameters that yield the best performance for such application. Lofty nonwovens with different construction parameters are evaluated for their thermal conductivity performance. Three different types of fiber material: solid round fiber, hollow fiber, and grooved fiber, with various denier, needling intensity, and web density were evaluated.