Space Suit Thermal Control Using Thermoelectric Devices



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47th International Conference on Environmental Systems


Keeping an astronaut both alive and thermally comfortable in an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) suit requires a system capable of balancing the variations in the metabolic heat load with the sink temperatures of the environment outside the suit. While these parameters can vary widely, the necessary temperature range that must be maintained within the suit is extremely narrow by comparison. EVA suits are very well insulated and without some form of heat rejection an astronaut will quickly overheat. Different technologies have been used successfully to reject this heat, but to date all of them have required the consumption of both power and water, which limits the available EVA time and adds to the complexity of the system. This work explores the feasibility of using thermoelectric devices, both as generators and coolers, in combination with variable emissivity films to adequately modulate the thermal balance across a range of conditions. Performance data from commercially available thermoelectric technologies are used wherever possible to provide a realistic first-order assessment of applicability to a suit thermal system. The upper and lower limits of system performance with regard to both metabolic load and environmental temperature are presented along with the power surplus or deficit that results. Comparisons with current technologies and suggestions for future work are offered, as are the many potential benefits of a simple thermal control system with no consumables, no material vented to the environment and with the possibility to remain power-positive even without a separate power supply.


Kipp Larson, University of Colorado Boulder, USA
James Nabity, University of Colorado Boulder, USA
ICES401: Extravehicular Activity: Systems
The 47th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in South Carolina, USA on 16 July 2017 through 20 July 2017.


spacesuit, thermal control, thermoelectric