Juliana Cherston Dissertation Defense

Dissertation Title: The Well-Dressed Spacecraft: Textiles for Cosmic Dust Metrology

I envision cosmic grains that have traveled light years to meet, in a microscopic blitz, the commonplace textile! This work tracks advanced fabric sensor characterization from a tabletop laser accelerator, to a warehouse-scale electrostatic accelerator, to the walls of the International Space Station. 

In Low Earth Orbit, the cosmologist and the cosmopolitan rub shoulders. There is, increasingly, direct place-sharing between the specialized scientist and the lay explorer – a coexistence of scientific and humanistic pursuit that is evidently absent in the specialized laboratories of the 20th century.  When scientific and humanistic infrastructure are not gracefully coevolved, they clash. A key design vision for the current work is to propose that the secondary function of a multifunctional spacecraft subsystem need not relate directly to the primary mission. In a single substrate or system, opportunities exist to more deeply unify the infrastructural demands and desires of the explorer with the architectures that enable scientific inquiry.

For example, for decades, spacecraft and spacesuits have leveraged textile substrates as their outermost protective skins, shielding from harsh environmental effects. The primary contribution of this work is the introduction of piezoelectric and charge sensitive fabric skin for sensing hypervelocity space dust, while simultaneously offering enhanced protective capabilities. I address the design, development, material characterization, and space-based testing of this material. Laser ablation and Van de Graaff accelerator facilities on the ground allow estimates of the kinematic regimes to which this target material is sensitive. Kinematic estimates can in turn reveal the origin of dust and debris.

Broadly, I foresee a rich future for textile-enhanced structures in space. From space webs on asteroids and 'sensory conductors' on extravehicular spacesuits to future "textile telescopes" for sensing interstellar dust, I introduce a suite of additional conceptual avenues that together map out a landscape of opportunity for scientists and explorers alike.

Committee members:

Prof. Joe Paradiso
Alexander W. Dreyfoos Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Director of Responsive Environments Research Group

Prof. Yoel Fink
Professor, Material Sciences and Engineering
Professor, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Director of Fibers@MIT group

Prof. Hajime Yano
Planetary Scientist, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

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