Air Leak Sensor For Spacecraft

An air leak sensor under development by an Iowa State research team is finally ready for installation as a prototype on a NASA spacecraft. Air leaks are notoriously difficult to find, because instruments and other gear cover most of the interior surface of spacecraft.


(ISU grad Clayton Anderson in ISS)

At present, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) use microphones to listen for the telltale hiss of air escaping into space. However, most of the sound energy goes out into space along with the air.

To give you some idea of the scope of the problem, consider the leak that developed on the ISS in January of 2004. The leak, which turned out to be just one millimeter wide, took almost a week to find and patch. If the leak had not been found, the astronauts would have been forced to return home.


(Air leak sensor prototype in 2005 [1" square])

The new air leak sensor uses structure-borne vibration to detect the direction of the leak. The one-inch square sensor includes an array of 64 elements that detect vibration. The different elements pick up vibrations at different times. The data is analyzed by a computer to determine the direction of the leak; multiple sensors reduce the amount of time to detect a leak to a approximately one minute.

The research team is being lead by Dale Chimenti, and Iowa State University professor of aerospace engineering. The other team members are Stephen Holland, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering; Ronald Roberts, a scientist for Iowa State's Center for Nondestructive Evaluation; Ricky Reusser, a recent Iowa State graduate who earned his bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering; and Steven Sulhoff, a senior in aerospace engineering from Avoca.


(Air leak sensor package with backing)

Chimenti's team is now working with Invocon, a company that has already provided sensors to the ISS. If NASA approves Phase II funding, an air leak system will be prepared for installation.

Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein came up with a more colorful method in his 1948 short story Gentlemen, Be Seated, which described life in a lunar habitat.

There were perhaps a dozen bladder-like objects in the tunnel, the size and shape of toy balloons. They seemed to displace exactly their own weight of air; they floated without displaying much tendency to rise or settle. Konski batted one out of his way and answered me before I could ask.

"This piece of tunnel was pressurized today," he told me.

"These tag-alongs search out stray leaks. They're sticky inside. They get sucked up against a leak, break, and the goo gets sucked in, freezes and seals the leak."
(Read more about Heinlein's tag-alongs)

Update Aug-06-2014: Take a look at the entry for the smoke jets from Leo Zagat's 1932 short story The Great Dome of Mercury. End update.

Read more in the Iowa State news release; story via Roland.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/7/2007)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

HAVOC Over Venus ala Bespin
'Cloud City is an installation on the planet Bespin...'- George Lucas, 1980.

Should SETI Talk To Molecular Cloud Barnard 68?
'I myself am building basic chemicals at about 10,000,000,000 times the rate at which building is occurring on the whole ... surface of your planet.'- Fred Hoyle, 1957.

Stellar Navigation Based On Network Analysis
'We are a traveling people. We need a travel station here.'- Clifford Simak, 1963.

Students! NASA Wants To 3D Print Your Tool Design In Space!
'Mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'- Arthur C. Clarke, 1979

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

BMW's Remote Valet Parking Assistant
'Mary... claimed her car from the robopark...'

HAVOC Over Venus ala Bespin
'Cloud City is an installation on the planet Bespin...'

Neuroscientist Works Toward Virtual Immortality ala Clarke
'Nothing will be left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'

A Basic Income TED Talk
'They de-emphasized what lack of work would do to Mr. Everyman'

Smart Window Tints, Powers Itself
'The polawindow, which he tuned to clear transmission.'

What Can Magic Leap Expect From New 'Chief Futurist' Neal Stephenson?
'The goggles throw a light, smoky haze across his eyes...'

Should SETI Talk To Molecular Cloud Barnard 68?
'I myself am building basic chemicals at about 10,000,000,000 times the rate at which building is occurring on the whole ... surface of your planet.'

EXACTO Bullets Change Course In Mid-Air
'This little weapon ejects a rather ingenious missile...'

LikeAGlove Smart Garment Knows Your Size
'The tailor set moving a mechanism...'

Button-Pushing Robots Have Taken Our Jobs, Thankfully
'The ten forked ends of each arm commenced a rattling pressing of the buttons.'

Puls 'Smart Watch' Replaces Your Cell Phone
Even before Dick Tracy, there were Ideas about this.

Small Molecule Walker Takes First Steps
'The bits were in motion.'

US Navy Laser Ready For Use
Fifty years from cartoon to reality.

Fast Lightweight Autonomy Indoor Drones For DARPA
'the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom... and sought the security of a shadowed corner.'

Ninebot One Self-Balancing Wheel
'It had been a long time since the Chief Engineer had ridden one of these silly-looking little vehicles...'

FuturICT Knowledge Accelerator And Psychohistory
'The reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.