Spacesuit Dust Mitigation-Study in Vacuum Settings Using Carbon Nanotube Fibers with Electric Fields



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2020 International Conference on Environmental Systems


Even after 50 years since the first lunar manned missions, lunar exploration has been a significant topic of interest to advance human space exploration. With NASA working towards an eventual return to the lunar surface to set up permanent human outposts, these activities necessitate robust and reusable spacesuits to enable frequent extravehicular activities in the dusty environments of the lunar surface. Dust contamination was shown to be a serious problem during Apollo missions when the powdery dust substantially degraded the performance of spacesuits and other critical equipment. The research presented in this paper designed, developed and tested the Spacesuit Integrated Carbon nanotube Dust Ejection/Removal (SPIcDER) system. SPIcDER generates an electric field that can actively levitate and repel dust particles off the spacesuit outerlayer when energized using a multi-phase AC voltage signal. Carbon nanotube (CNT) flexible fibers, used as electrodes, are embedded within the outerlayer of the spacesuit as they provide the required resilience and flexibility required for spacesuit operations. The system leveraged the Electrodynamic Dust Shield (EDS) developed by NASA for rigid surfaces. SPIcDER applies novel fabrication methods to create a ‘smart fabric’ suited for repelling dust from flexible surfaces. Proof of concept for SPIcDER was demonstrated successfully at coupon level and a functional full-scale knee joint section of a spacesuit prototype. Our experiments with lunar and Martian dust simulants demonstrated the functionality and efficacy of SPIcDER in preventing dust contamination. The current paper details the performance of SPIcDER in vacuum conditions based on experiments conducted at the Kennedy Space Center utilizing spacesuit material coupons with CNT fibers. The research provides an assessment of both the design and manufacturing parameters influencing SPIcDER dust cleaning performance. While SPIcDER was initially developed for spacesuits, the underlying technology is versatile, applicable to flexible structures deployed during a mission in space, or on Earth.


Kavya Manyapu, University of North Dakota, USA
Leora Peltz, The Boeing Company, USA
Pablo De Leon, University of North Dakota, USA
Carlos Calle, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA
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.


lunar dust mitigation, spacesuit dust control, carbon nanotube dust mitigation