NASA is testing futuristic spacesuits with built-in cooling systems

NASA astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) are testing new spacesuits with built-in water cooling systems to withstand the heat of space.

In a new video, NASA has shown how its personnel are conducting spacewalks just outside of the ISS while receiving cooled water from an on-board device.

Astronauts are wearing special garments under their spacesuits that feature tubes filled with a constant stream of this circulating water.

The concept of using water as a coolant goes back to Apollo era in the 1970s, but NASA’s new system is equipped with pressure sensors, a thermal control loop to maintain a set temperature, and the ability to release warm water vapor into space.

NASA astronauts on board the International Space Station are testing futuristic spacesuits with built-in cooling systems

Cooling technologies are being tested for the upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon, set to take place in 2025, according to NASA.

HEAT ON THE MOON

Because the Moon has no significant atmosphere to block some of the Sun’s rays or to help trap heat at night, its temperature varies greatly between day and night.

According to NASA, temperatures on the lunar surface can reach a blistering 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

The average temperature on the Moon (at the equator and mid latitudes) varies from -298 degrees Fahrenheit (-183 degrees Celsius), at night, to 224 degrees Fahrenheit (106 degrees Celsius) during the day.

Source: NASA/Caltech

Later this decade, Artemis moonwalkers exploring the lunar South Pole will wear spacesuits that withstand temperatures of 250°F to keep them safe.

NASA has outlined its upcoming technologies in a new video, entitled ‘Keeping Cool in Space’.

‘Imagine you are an astronaut on the Moon,’ NASA says. ‘Your job for the next eight hours will be exploring, collecting science samples, traversing up and down lunar hills, sampling rocks, and setting up equipment as part of the Artemis program.

‘Temperatures on the lunar surface can reach a blistering 250 degrees Fahrenheit. How does NASA keep astronauts cool in spacesuits so that they can work on the Moon? Fortunately, each spacesuit includes a personal cooling unit.’

During spacewalks, astronauts need protection from the heat of the sun, as well as heat generated by their own body as they work.

NASA says air cooling is insufficient for this important job, so it’s instead turned to water as a coolant.

The centrepiece of NASA’s Spacesuit Evaporation Rejection Flight Experiment (SERFE) is an oven sized device that’s aboard the ISS. NASA says it’s ‘all the critical elements of a spacesuit cooling system in one box’.

It is feeding a constant supply of cooled water to astronauts when they do their spacewalks on the ISS.

The centrepiece of NASA's Spacesuit Evaporation Rejection Flight Experiment (SERFE) is an oven sized device that's now aboard the ISS

The centrepiece of NASA’s Spacesuit Evaporation Rejection Flight Experiment (SERFE) is an oven sized device that’s now aboard the ISS

Astronauts are wearing special garments under their spacesuits that feature tubes filled with a constant stream of cool circulating water

Astronauts are wearing special garments under their spacesuits that feature tubes filled with a constant stream of cool circulating water

NASA’S SERFE PROJECT

Artemis moonwalkers exploring the lunar South Pole will wear revolutionary spacesuits that stand up to the Moon’s harsh environment and help keep them safe.

A critical component of a spacesuit is the life support system, which keeps the astronaut and the spacesuit cool.

The Spacesuit Evaporation Rejection Flight Experiment (SERFE) is designed to evaluate and demonstrate this new active thermal control technology in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station.

The thermal control loop circulates cooling water throughout the prototype to keep its electronics cool and astronauts comfortable.

This technology could play a role in ensuring future spacewalkers will be able to carry out their mission objectives during a spacewalk.

Source: NASA

Two of these SERFE boxes have actually been built – one aboard the ISS and another at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Engineers have been performing the exact same tests on the ground on their identical SERFE unit as the ones going on aboard the ISS.

However, the box-shaped SERFE device is just a prototype of what astronauts on the moon will eventually have to carry on their backs, so part of the challenge is to shrink it down to make it portable.

Work is already underway to build this cooling backpack, according to NASA.

A key part of NASA’s upcoming technology is to remove heat from the water that’s circulating through the spacesuit, generated by the astronaut’s body.

For this it’s designed ‘a heat-rejection device’ called a spacesuit water membrane evaporator (SWME) inside the SERFE box.

SWMS circulates water from the liquid cooling garment through small hollow, water-repelling tubes.

As the liquid water passes through these tubes, water vapor is exhausted to space, thereby removing heat.

The SERFE boxes run for eight hours at a time – around what a spacewalk might last.

When it’s turned off, contaminants can develop in the water that can impact the water’s flow, so NASA personnel on the ISS have to take regular water samples.

A spacesuit water membrane evaporator (SWME, pictured) removes heat from the water that's circulating through the spacesuit

A spacesuit water membrane evaporator (SWME, pictured) removes heat from the water that’s circulating through the spacesuit

Current experiments with SERFE on the ISS act as research for how such a system will perform under high temperatures and low gravity in the Artemis era.

NASA’s Artemis program will land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2025, specifically at the lunar south pole region.

It is also hoped that establishing a sustainable lunar presence will ultimately be used as a ‘stepping stone’ for the first human mission to Mars.

NASA’s original date for sending humans back to the moon was 2024, but last year it delayed the datelargely blamed on litigation from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ firm Blue Origin.

Artemis I, NASA’s uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, is set to launch later this year after itself being delayed.

The International Space Station (ISS, pictured), which is 357.5 feet wide and 239.4 feet in length, completes an entire orbit around the Earth once every 90 minutes

The International Space Station (ISS, pictured), which is 357.5 feet wide and 239.4 feet in length, completes an entire orbit around the Earth once every 90 minutes

NASA image from December 10, 1972 showing astronaut Harrison Schmitt collecting lunar rock samples at the Taurus-Littrow landing site on the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission

NASA image from December 10, 1972 showing astronaut Harrison Schmitt collecting lunar rock samples at the Taurus-Littrow landing site on the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission

The original Apollo astronauts remain the only humans to have been sent into deep space.

The celebrated program saw men walk on the moon for the last time in 1972, as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

After returning humans to the Moon in 2024, NASA plans to send astronauts to the moon once per year and establish lunar exploration by 2028.

The program will lay the groundwork in NASA’s plans to send crewed missions to the Mars in the 2030s.

In April 2020, NASA released a detailed plan for an ‘Artemis Base Camp’ that will be home to first woman and next man on the moon in 2024.

Tea 13-page handout highlights elements such as a terrain vehicle for transporting the astronauts around the landing zone, a permanent habit and a mobility platform to travel across the lunar surface.

NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis mission

Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.

NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2025 – including the first woman and the next man.

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars.

Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.

During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.

It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars.  This graphic explains the various stages of the mission

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission

Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.

With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.

The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.

Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.

Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.

The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.

.

Leave a Comment