Overview: The outermost skin of a space-based structure is designed using materials known to protect against the harsh elements of space. Simultaneously, the skin provides a unique opportunity to characterize the environment proximate to a spacecraft and to perform real-time damage detection. Thus, we are developing a space-resilient fabric that simultaneously senses and protects, emulating the dual protective and sensory capabilities of biological skin. Space resilient sensory skins will serve a key role in next generation haptic feedback systems for spacesuits (see SpaceTouch application area), as well as next generation thermal blankets for distributed detection of high velocity debris impact.
In-Space Deployment Support: ISS US National Lab, Aegis Aerospace, Space BD
Manufacturing Support: JPS Composite Materials
Specifics: For example, Beta Cloth—the outermost layer of the International Space Station—is particularly resilient to atomic oxygen erosion and extended UV radiation exposure. It is also regularly exposed to high velocity debris impact. We draw from recent advances in functional fibers and electronic textiles in order to weave sensors directly into the Teflon-coated fiberglass that comprises Beta Cloth, enabling the skin to detect and characterize impact events. We seek to demonstrate that the well-characterized, protective properties of aerospace-grade woven materials can be preserved even when modified to include sensory functionality.