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Sheet Membrane Spacesuit Water Membrane Evaporator

A document describes a sheet membrane spacesuit water membrane evaporator (SWME), which allows for the use of one common water tank that can supply cooling water to the astronaut and to the evaporator. Test data showed that heat rejection performance dropped only 6 percent after being subjected to highly contaminated water. It also exhibited robustness with respect to freezing and Martian atmospheric simulation testing. Water was allowed to freeze in the water channels during testing that simulated a water loop failure and vapor backpressure valve failure. Upon closing the backpressure valve and energizing the pump, the ice eventually thawed and water began to flow with no apparent damage to the sheet membrane.

The membrane evaporator also serves to de-gas the water loop from entrained gases, thereby eliminating the need for special degassing equipment such as is needed by the current spacesuit system.

As water flows through the three annular water channels, water evaporates with the vapor flowing across the hydrophobic, porous sheet membrane to the vacuum side of the membrane. The rate at which water evaporates, and therefore, the rate at which the flowing water is cooled, is a function of the difference between the water saturation pressure on the water side of the membrane, and the pressure on the vacuum side of the membrane. The primary theory is that the hydrophobic sheet membrane retains water, but permits vapor pass-through when the vapor side pressure is less than the water saturation pressure. This results in evaporative cooling of the remaining water.

This work was done by Grant Bue and Luis Trevino of Johnson Space Center; Felipe Zapata and Paul Dillion of ERC, Inc.; and Juan Castillo, Walter Vonau, Bob Wilkes, Matthew Vogel, and Curtis Frodge of Jacobs Technology. MSC-24840-1

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