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 are developing a space-resilient fabric that simultaneously senses and protects, emulating the dual protective and sensory capabilities of biological skin.
Space resilient sensory skins will serve a key role in next-generation haptic feedback systems for space suits, as well as next-generation thermal blankets for distributed detection of high-velocity debris impact.
Specifics: 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 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.