A Smoke Detector to Prevent False Alarms in Lunar Missions by Smoke-Dust Discrimination



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2020 International Conference on Environmental Systems


In the spacecraft environment there are many critical systems with alarm scenarios. A cabin fire would be one of the most catastrophic emergency events, so accurate smoke detection is of utmost importance. False smoke detector alarms have been a problem in the International Space Station (ISS), particularly during housekeeping activities such as vacuuming. The consequence of a false alarm is that fans and ventilation are immediately shut off, causing disruption for the crew on orbit, as well as investigations and documentation for ground personnel. The current solution to this problem is to turn off smoke detectors during weekly vacuuming activities. While this is acceptable for ISS, it would not be a viable solution for lunar missions. Lunar dust was a documented problem in the spacecraft cabin on the Apollo missions, affecting the air quality and equipment. As humans are looking toward returning to the moon with the Artemis mission, the opportunity exists to improve and adapt existing spacecraft systems to account for lunar dust. Smoke detection is a prime candidate for improvement. At the University of Duisburg-Essen, a new highly selective optical approach for the characterization of aerosols and the detection of smoke is being investigated that may strongly reduce the problem of false alarms caused by dust. The optical approach POLARISE exploits specific polarimetric effects of non-fire aerosols, i.e. dust and water droplets. Dust is identified by a particular depolarization effect during the light scattering process, which is caused by the strongly non-spherical shape of the dust particles. The approach was proven successful with terrestrial dust and is currently being implemented in point-type and linear smoke detectors. This paper describes the approach and results achieved with POLARISE in experiments with lunar simulant JSC-1A, discussing the possibility of implementing the approach for the detection of smoke onboard a spacecraft.


Thorsten Schultze, University of Duisburg-Essen, DE
Lea Sichma, University of Duisburg-Essen, DE
Marit Meyer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), US
ICES509: Fire Safety in Spacecraft and Enclosed Habitats
The proceedings for the 2020 International Conference on Environmental Systems were published from July 31, 2020. The technical papers were not presented in person due to the inability to hold the event as scheduled in Lisbon, Portugal because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.


Fire detection, Smoke detection, False alarm, Dust, Lunar missions