ABOUT THE CHALLENGE
Space suits are multilayer garments that protect humans from the harsh environments encountered during space exploration. In general, the functions of the space suit layers can be divided into three functional areas: pressure retention (bladder), structural/load carrying (restraint), and environmental hazard protection (currently the thermal micrometeoroid garment (TMG)). The current TMG is about 1/16” in thickness, contains layers of ortho-fabric (a blend of Gortex®, Kevlar®, and Nomex® materials), aluminized Mylar, and neoprene-coated nylon.
Future space suits are being developed for extra-terrestrial exploration beyond low-earth orbit, which will require expanding environmental hazard protection to encompass planetary environments such as those on the moon, Mars, and large asteroids. A major consideration in these environments is the lack of commonality of the dirt and dust environment and those on Earth. A result of these differences is that there is not a standard assessment technique for determining the wear performance of newly developed environmental protection garment (EPG) designs vs current and past TMG designs.
Total prize pool of US$15,000 available in the form of three (3) US$5,000 prizes.
NASA will recognize prize winners through published announcements and individual profile stories. Successful applicants may also have the opportunity for future collaboration with NASA.
Acceptance of prize grants NASA with an unlimited royalty-free license to use winning methodologies.
There is currently not a good repeatable/standard test methodology for assessing candidate EPG textile layups with respect to wear during use in planetary exploration. Results from testing should indicate size and quantity of particles that migrate through the different layers of the EPG and catalog/quantify any degradation of the layers (cuts, abrasion, color changes, reduction in tear or tensile strength, reduction in thermal insulation). The proposed methodology may include a series of tests to be performed in a specified order.
The successful technology or procedure will:
- Provide a textile layup abrasion method capable of being performed with lunar or Martian regolith simulants such as JSC 1a or JSC MARS-1.
- This method should be able to replicate the type of fiber degradation made to the A7LB space suit after exposure to lunar dirt/dust. (See Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) data of Apollo 12 suits on pages 139-155 here.)
- Indicate the size and quantity of particles that migrate through the different layers of the EPG.
- Provide a clearly defined method to catalog and quantify degradation of the layers including: cuts, abrasion, color changes, reduction in tear or tensile strength, reduction in thermal insulation.
- Have a correlation between separate administrations of the test of 0.7 or higher.
- Have an absolute difference between two repeated test results that lies within a probability of 95%.
And preferably will:
- Require no more than an hour to complete the test and/or run autonomously
- Not require specific textile expertise to execute the testing or interpret the results
Please see the following literature detailing NASA’s efforts in this area:
- Abrasion Testing of Candidate Outer Layer Fabrics for Lunar EVA Space Suits
- Phase VI Glove Durability Testing
- Electron Microscopy Abrasion Analysis of Candidate Fabrics for Planetary Space Suit Protective Overgarment Application