Off Planet Research (OPR) will develop a cover for the Service and Cooling Connector (SCC) on the xEMU that will protect the SCC from dust intrusion while operating on the lunar surface. The cover will exclude dust from the entire surface of the SCC, be lightweight, and have high reliability due to the low number of components. The cover will be easy to attach and remove, free from catching during normal EVA activity, and reduce dust adherence on the exterior surface of the cover. Prior to entering Phase 2, proof of concept and risk reduction for the cover will be accomplished through testing and demonstration of the cover design and operation, and through review and feedback by NASA representatives and the xEMU team. Based off of design concepts from previous SBIR awards, our cover technology is currently at TRL 2.
The timing and urgency of providing flight-ready SCC covers may make it necessary for a two-stage approach to address this technology gap; providing first generation covers for the first few Artemis missions that are intended for EVAs over a single mission while developing a second generation cover that will be capable of use on repeated missions. Using information provided by NASA, we will produce a mechanical mock-up of the SCC port in our lab to ensure timely and effective development of the cover and its operation. Intermediate covers may be sent to NASA for evaluation using the xEMU depending on the design iteration timeline. Recommendations and feedback from the xEMU team will be integrated into revised cover designs.
We will also produce a retaining device to hold and protect the cover as well as keep it clean when it is not installed on the suit. If desired, this retaining device may be designed to be situated within the same location that the umbilical is stored in when not in use. This will provide a secure location away from the potential dust carried into the habitat during donning, doffing, or cleaning procedures.
This cover supports a current and urgent need for future NASA missions to protect the SCC ports from lunar regolith. Protecting these ports to enable recharging the xEMU will help ensure longer duration EVAs. The primary customer is the xEMU team as this is a custom cover designed to integrate into the current suit architecture. We will continue to explore additional application for a similar cover for protecting connectors on rovers and in habitats, ISRU plant interfaces, and control panels.
We anticipate that a similar type of cover on commercial rovers and landers will be needed that will create a follow-on market for this technology. Economic benefits include increased lifespan of interconnecting systems, such as the xEMUs, rovers, and ISRU plants. The size of the commercial market for a similar product will be determined in later phases through market research.