New intelligent materials for future space suits
All space agencies are preparing for a return of man to the moon in the relatively near future! It is in this context that the European Space Agency (ESA) is launching the “PEXTEX” project. The aim of the project is to identify future space combinations of new materials and intelligent textiles. Signed on January 17, 2019, the two-year study was entrusted to the Space Department of Comex.sa, as coordinator, and to its European partners the German DITF and the Austrian OeWF.
The project aims to find, in addition to existing materials on space suits, new components to incorporate additional features. To guard against dangers, but also to analyze the environment, to monitor the health of astronauts, etc. The possibilities are numerous. For example, there are rains of micrometeorites on the lunar surface; the search for textiles capable of maintaining their structural integrity is a first-rate challenge, knowing the disastrous consequences that a combination tear could cause!
For this purpose, and in order to be better adapted to this environment, the study will allow the identification of intelligent materials such as innovative polymers such as shape-memory textiles, but also e-textiles in which electronic components would be inserted. and computer, the interest is to have materials capable of capturing, analyzing and reacting autonomously and safely.
The materials that will be identified as part of the PEXTEX project will be tested in test facilities with partner organizations in France, Germany and Austria.
Fifty years after the Apollo missions, human space exploration is at the dawn of a new era, ESA and its international partners are working to return man to the moon. Establishing a permanent presence on the lunar surface is the role of future missions. The identification and testing of such materials could be used for the development of future European space suits for extravehicular activities (EVA) on the lunar floor and these space suits should be designed to withstand longer and more frequent surface operations than during the Apollo period.
This project is part of ESA’s exploration strategy to return to the moon in the coming decades. Just like the development of GATEWAY, the future space station in lunar orbit. This station will serve as a “base camp” to perform robotic and human missions on the lunar surface. Project in which Comex.sa is also associated, in partnership with Airbus, for the development of one of the “ESPRIT” modules..
Under the direction of Dr. Peter Weiss and his close collaborators Thibaud Gobert and Makthoum Peer, the Space Department is increasingly involved in this great adventure of space conquest and especially lunar exploration, congratulations to them.