NASA’s long-duration human missions far from Earth and operation of closed-loop life support systems have critical needs for monitoring and control for environmental quality and certifying recycled life-support consumables. Monitoring technologies are employed to assure that the chemical and microbial content of the air and water environment of the astronaut crew habitat falls within acceptable limits, and that the life-support system is functioning properly and efficiently. The sensors may also provide data to automated control systems.
Significant improvements are sought in miniaturization and operational reliability, as well as long life, inline operation, self-calibration, reduction of expendables, low energy consumption, and minimal operator time/maintenance for monitoring and controlling the life-support processes. All proposed technologies should have a two-year shelf life, including any calibration materials (liquid or gas). The technologies will need to function in microgravity and low-pressure environments (~8 psi), and may see unpressurized storage.
- Process control monitors for life support. These would work in a process stream rather than in the cabin, as part of a feedback control system. Examples include oxygen concentration in an oxygen stream, or in a hot, very humid stream in which there should be no oxygen.
- Trace toxic metals in water.
- Microbial monitoring and control of water and surfaces using minimal consumables.
- Optimal system control methods. Operate the life-support system with optimal efficiency and reliability, using a carefully chosen suite of feedback and health monitors, and the associated control system.
- Sensor suites. Determine, with robust technical analysis, the optimal number and location of sensors for the information that is needed, and efficient extraction of data from the suite of sensors.
- The overheating or combustion of spacecraft materials can introduce many types of particulate and gaseous contaminants into the cabin atmosphere. Catalytic or sorbent technologies suitable for the rapid removal of gases, especially CO, and particulates during a contingency response are desired.