Project

SpaceSkin: Aerospace-grade electronic textiles for distributed sensing on persistent orbital structures

Juliana Cherston

Groups

The outermost skin of a space-based structure is designed using materials known to protect against the harsh elements of space. Simultaneously, the skin provides a unique opportunity to characterize the environment proximate to a spacecraft and to perform real-time damage detection. Thus, we propose developing an aerospace-grade fabric that simultaneously senses and protects, emulating the dual protective and sensory capabilities of biological skin. Aerospace-grade sensory skins will serve a key role in next generation haptic feedback systems for spacesuits (see SpaceTouch application area), as well as next generation thermal blankets for distributed detection of high velocity debris impact. 

For example, Beta Cloth—the outermost layer of the International Space Station—is particularly resilient to atomic oxygen erosion and extended UV radiation exposure. It is also regularly exposed to high velocity debris impact. We draw from recent advances in functional fibers and electronic textiles in order to weave and coat sensors directly into the teflon-coated fiberglass that comprises Beta Cloth, enabling the s… View full description

The outermost skin of a space-based structure is designed using materials known to protect against the harsh elements of space. Simultaneously, the skin provides a unique opportunity to characterize the environment proximate to a spacecraft and to perform real-time damage detection. Thus, we propose developing an aerospace-grade fabric that simultaneously senses and protects, emulating the dual protective and sensory capabilities of biological skin. Aerospace-grade sensory skins will serve a key role in next generation haptic feedback systems for spacesuits (see SpaceTouch application area), as well as next generation thermal blankets for distributed detection of high velocity debris impact. 

For example, Beta Cloth—the outermost layer of the International Space Station—is particularly resilient to atomic oxygen erosion and extended UV radiation exposure. It is also regularly exposed to high velocity debris impact. We draw from recent advances in functional fibers and electronic textiles in order to weave and coat sensors directly into the teflon-coated fiberglass that comprises Beta Cloth, enabling the skin to detect and characterize impact events. We seek to demonstrate that the well-characterized, protective properties of aerospace-grade woven materials can be preserved even when modified to include sensory functionality.

Our work begins by examining integrated piezoelectric yarns and piezoelectric ink coatings for vibration sensing. We will also consider state-of-the-art manufacturing methods (e.g., device-in-fiber technology [1]) and intriguing high velocity impact sensing modalities; e.g., detection of impact plasma RF emission [2]). Other possibilities include the use of free-flying external optical sensors that collaborate with the skin to assess damage ("Skin and Eyes"), as well as work towards making the sensory skin robust to cutting, sewing, and wrapping.    

[1] Tao, Guangming, et al. "Multimaterial fibers." Lab-on-Fiber Technology. Springer, Cham, 2015. 1-26.

[2] Lee, N., et al. "Measurements of freely-expanding plasma from hypervelocity impacts." International Journal of Impact Engineering 44 (2012): 40-49.

Research Topics
#space