NASA's vision is to establish human outpost stations on the Moon and further explore Mars and other destinations out of the Lower Earth Orbit. To meet these future space missions, NASA is developing next-generation spacesuits as a part of the Deep Space EVA system called xEMU. The xEMU is the precursor for the future Mars Extravehicular Mobility Unit, mEMU. Spacesuits are the most iconic and critical components of missions to protect astronauts from the harsh space environment.
The spacesuit materials should be resistant to dust, abrasion, wear, tears, and punctures, and above all, should be flame resistant. The current flame-retardant textile fibers are based on inherently flame-resistant materials such as aramids or flame-retardant treated cotton, rayon, and wool. However, these materials are not strong, flame-retardant in the enriched atmosphere of 36% oxygen at a pressure of 8.2 psi (56.5 kPa). Therefore, NASA seeks to develop a non-toxic, inherently strong, flame-retardant (in 36% oxygen), and comfortable fiber to use for crew members' next-to-the-skin clothing.
In the proposed effort, non-toxic flame retardants will be incorporated into the fiber‐forming polymers during polymer synthesis. The novel flame-retardant polymers will be extruded into fine textile fibers. The physical and mechanical properties of the fabrics produced from these novel flame retardant polymeric fibers will be evaluated. The flame resistance of the fibers and materials in an atmosphere containing 36% oxygen will be demonstrated.
The new yarns and fabrics are required to send astronauts safely and comfortably to the Moon to later establish a sustainable human presence beyond low Earth orbit. Beyond the Moon-Mars beckons with demanding requirements potentially met by MMI's innovation.
The proposed fibers can be used in personal protection suits for warfighters, fire-fighters, and industrial workers.