Performance Characterization and Simulation of Amine-Based Vacuum Swing Sorption Units for Spacesuit Carbon Dioxide and Humidity Control
42nd International Conference on Environmental Systems
Controlling carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) vapor concentrations in a space suit is critical to ensuring an astronauts safety, comfort, and capability to perform extravehicular activity (EVA) tasks. Historically, this has been accomplished using lithium hydroxide (LiOH) and metal oxide (MetOx) canisters. Lithium hydroxide is a consumable material that requires priming with water before it becomes effective at removing carbon dioxide. MetOx is regenerable through a power-intensive thermal
... intensive thermal cycle but is significantly heavier on a volume basis than LiOH. As an alternative, amine-based vacuum swing beds are under aggressive development for EVA applications. The vacuum swing units control atmospheric concentrations of both CO2 and H2O through fully-regenerative process. The current concept, referred to as the rapid cycle amine (RCA), has resulted in numerous laboratory prototypes. Performance of these prototypes have been assessed experimentally and documented in previous reports. To support developmental efforts, a first principles model has also been established for the vacuum swing sorption technology. For the first time in several decades, a major re-design of Portable Life Support System (PLSS) for the extra-vehicular mobility unit (EMU) is underway. NASA at Johnson Space Center built and tested an integrated PLSS test bed of all subsystems under a variety of simulated EVA conditions of which the RCA prototype played a significant role. The efforts documented herein summarize RCA test performance and simulation results for single and variable metabolic rate experiments in an integrated context. In addition, a variety of off-nominal tests were performed to assess the capability of the RCA to function under challenging circumstances. Tests included high water production experiments, degraded vacuum regeneration, and deliberate valve/power failure and recovery.