Breathing in space is something astronauts working on the
International Space Station
can’t take for granted. So the door seals that close air chambers and keep fresh air intact are taken very seriously.
But the testing for these docking seal materials is an expensive process, involving thousands of hours of time and costly facilities.
Thanks to University of Akron
mechanical engineer and researcher, Nicholas Garafolo Ph.D.
, some of the time and expense may be shaved off this process due to computer prediction models he has designed.
Garafolo is part of a research team testing polymer/metal seals being considered for future advanced docking and berthing systems. The university researchers work with partners in Cleveland at NASA’s Glenn Research Center
, which is responsible for developing the main interface seals for the new International Low Impact Docking Systems (iLIDS). Their work is being supported by a multi-million dollar grant from NASA.
NASA has been developing low-impact docking seals for manned missions to the International Space Station, as well as for future exploratory missions. Common to all docking systems, a main interface seal is mated to a metallic flange to provide the gas pressure seal.
“These seals must not allow any more leakage of air per day than that you would find in the top of a filled water bottle,” says Garafolo. “There are very tight requirements. This computer modeling enables us to find baseline measurements before any fabrication of the seals so it saves time and money.”
Garafolo says that the design and testing phase of the seal development can take years and testing can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. “This could potentially cut back on numerous tests, so by doing so it could save tens of thousands of dollars.”
Source: Nicholas Garafolo
Writer: Val Prevish