On the Moon’s surface, regolith is a well-known environmental hazard, both endemic and destructive to materials and mechanisms. Lunar dust fouling was a critical issue for Apollo spacesuits, causing abrasive wear that led to pressure leaks, impaired visibility, scratched gauges, and penetration into deeper layers. Dust mitigation was not an engineering design driver for the performance of the Apollo Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), because the number of extravehicular activities (EVAs) were limited. However, the future exploration EMU (xEMU) will have to remain usable for a much longer period, thereby necessitating more emphasis on dust mitigation. In particular, the Pressure Garment System and Portable Life Support System (PLSS) must be ready to withstand the elements, protecting not only the astronauts, but their own internal hardware from regolith migration and intrusion. Apollo missions’ human health effects included inhalation and irritation, which emphasize the importance of keeping astronauts safely isolated from dust. Paragon intends to develop Exploration Labyrinth Dust Seals (xLiDS) to improve astronaut safety and prolong equipment. For the xEMU PLSS (xPLSS), NASA has identified six components that will need gas flow to or from the surrounding ambient environment. Each component will require a specialized cover to prevent dust infiltration without impairing their flowrates. Without those covers, critical xPLSS functions could be disrupted, such as cooling, purge capabilities, and seal integrity . Paragon has developed a unique method of casting complex, labyrinth-like geometries that allow gas to flow while still preventing regolith migration into critical life support systems. xLiDS can be customized to fit the needs of every xPLSS port. Paragon’s extensive experience with spacesuit components, dust mitigation strategies, and rapid prototyping will quickly advance the desired mitigation technology through the iterative design and fabrication process.
The xLiDS concept is a customizable dust mitigation solution for any planetary surface technology. It protects mission equipment from being fouled or clogged by regolith dust, enabling sustained operations for lunar and Martian habitation. In addition to mitigating dust for the xEMU xPLSS, xLiDS technology can scale to larger infrastructure and/or mechanisms that have various degrees of regolith exposure and/or geometries. Custom xLiDS can handle varying types of flow for consumables, data, and/or power (ex: in-situ resource utilization).
xLiDS offers a versatile approach to mitigating dust issues for commercial companies that are interested in lunar surface infrastructure, including spacesuits, softgoods (ex: expandable habitats), and human-spacecraft-robotic interfaces. xLiDS could also apply to terrestrial industries like mining, construction, pharmaceutical, sandblasting, agricultural, and ruggedization of desert equipment.