Monday April 22, 2019

‘Sensory skin’ to help astronauts to know exactly when the outside of their spacecraft has been damaged: NASA

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NASA Headquarter in USA, VOA

Washington, March 26, 2017: Scientists at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are developing a system that acts like a sensory skin to help astronauts to know exactly when the outside of their spacecraft has been damaged.

The “Flexible Damage Detection System” technology may offer a possible solution to NASA’s problem of figuring out in real-time where a spacecraft is damaged and how seriously.

“I kind of look at it like a sensory skin,” said Martha Williams, the scientist leading the development team.

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“It’s a sensory system that tells us where we are damaged and the level of intensity,” Williams said in a statement.

Micrometeoroids and orbital debris pose threats to spacecraft as they move at speeds of 17,500 mph or 28,000 km per hour in low-Earth orbit, and at over 24,000 mph or 38,400 kmph on trips to the Moon and deep space.

As space shuttle windows revealed, something as small as a paint chip moving at that velocity can punch through several layers of glass.

If something pierces a spacecraft’s hull — or the first layer or two — there are very limited ways for astronauts aboard a spacecraft to know there might be damage.

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An impact that goes all the way through and causes a leak would set off alarms, but otherwise the current methods to detect damage require either a camera inspection or a spacewalking astronaut.

Nor is there a precise way to pinpoint exactly in real-time where the damage occurred if not visible to the eye or camera so that astronauts can assess it.

The new invention uses a series of several technologies to create circuits printed on thin layers and that can be embedded in a spacecraft’s structure, scientists behind the invention said.

The researchers believe that if successfully incorporated, the innovation could also be applied to a host of satellites and aircraft. (IANS)

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Spacecraft Test Runs into Serious Problems, Smoke All Over SpaceX in Florida

"Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test"

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space craft
Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

Thick plumes of smoke rose over a SpaceX facility in Florida during a test fire of a Crew Dragon spacecraft and the issue was serious, it could derail plans to fly astronauts aboard the capsule later this year, the media reported.

SpaceX, which was founded by billionaire businessman Elon Musk in 2002, said the craft was undergoing a “series of engine tests” at a facility in Cape Canaveral on Saturday, and something went wrong during the final stretch, CNN reported.

SpaceX will work with NASA to determine what caused the issue. No injuries were reported.

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The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules. Pixabay

“Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test,” SpaceX said in a statement.

Crew Dragon is already overdue and more delays could make things tricky for NASA.

It was scheduled to conduct a key test of its emergency abort system in June. And its first crewed mission, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, was slated for July, though NASA recently said that timeline was under review.

space craft
Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules.

NASA has also decided to ask the private sector to design and build a new generation of spacecrafts.

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SpaceX and Boeing, which is building a vehicle called Starliner, were awarded contracts worth up to $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, in 2014. Both capsules were supposed to start flying in 2017, but they have been hampered with delays.

Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. (IANS)