Ultrasonic Noise Betrays ISS Leaks

The development of technology to detect air leaks in space craft moves on; the latest is the Ultrasonic Background Noise Test (UBNT). (I wrote about another effort made in 2007; see Air Leak Sensor for Spacecraft.)


(Chris Hadfield installs UBNT sensors in Destiny, ISS)

By observing the high-frequency noise levels generated by hardware and equipment operating in the Destiny laboratory and Tranquility module aboard the space station, Madaras and his team are helping to develop an automated system that would locate air leaks in a space structure's pressure wall -- the outside part of the orbiting laboratory that keeps in oxygen.

"If a leak does occur, it's one of those things where you may not have a lot of time," Madaras said. "These guys can always go sit in the Soyuz capsule and close the door and go home. They've got that capability. But no one wants to just abandon ship, so there's always this desire to deal with it."

But dealing with a leak means identifying the source. Right now, that would require someone to listen for the signature hiss of escaping air -- not an easy or quick task, especially on a noisy space station that has structures covering the wall where the leak might originate.

That's why, as part of UBNT, astronauts are in the process of installing several distributed impact detection system (DIDS) units on the pressure walls of the space station. DIDS units are high-speed, four-channel digitizers that record ultrasonic noises. Instead of listening for the hiss of air, these units detect the high-frequency sounds moving through the metal itself. Each unit has four pressure-sensitive transducers, which Madaras compares to the pickup coils on an electric guitar.

If all goes according to plan, and Madaras and his UBNT team are able to identify and characterize the day-to-day background noises on the orbiting outpost, they then will be able to develop a system that can pick out leak-generated noises from the clutter.

Science fiction Grandmaster Robert Heinlein thought about this problem. In his 1948 short story Gentlemen, Be Seated, he described life in a lunar habitat. And the inevitable air leaks.

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)

From NASA via Gizmag; thanks to an anonymous reader for contributing this story. Update: I should also point out that this reminded my anonymous contributor of an Original Star Trek episode ("Court Marital") where Kirk has the computer filter out all the sounds on the Enterprise until he can hear the heartbeat of the person he is looking for. Me too - I remember that episode as well. End update.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/4/2013)

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 ")

Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.

Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.

Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.' - Jack Williamson, 1933.

Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...' - James Blish, 1957.

 

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

Swarm Of Mindless Robots Works Together
'Very tiny pseudo insects that... can unite to form a superordinate system.'

SpotMini Robot Dog, Autonomous And On Sale In 2019
Great, an autonomous slamhound. It is cute, though.

RoboFly Is Laser-Powered, Adorable
Don't swat this fly!

MSG Sphere Las Vegas, ala Star Wars
'The smoky globe, hung in the vault, was shot with colored light...'

Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...

MIT Ampli Blocks Build Biomedical Devices
Damn it Spock, I'm a doctor not an engineer!

UberAIR Asks For Skytaxi Landing Prototypes
You know you want to ride in one.

Boring Tunnel Almost Ready
Your underground future is calling!

Handheld Human Skin Printer
It outputs a thin wad of uniflesh.

Healthy Fast Food Courtesy Of Robot Chefs
'The electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.'

Mass Production Of In Vitro Meat From One Sample
They're Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

Retinal Prosthesis Uses Organic Printing Inks
We can rebuild you - well, your eyes, maybe.

Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.

Squid-Like Robots Soon To Be 3D Printable
'It was a chemotactic artificial jellyfish designed to slither...'

Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.

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.