Aerogel Fabrics in Advanced Space Suit Applications
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New insulating materials for spacesuits will need to be able to function well in low-pressure and gaseous environments, such as the Martian atmosphere. In order to address this need, Orbital Outfitters, a small spacesuit company, is currently investigating new materials for the insulating layer of the space suit. One such material is an aerogel fabric composite, promising because of its flexibility and low thermal conductivity. The purpose of this study is to characterize the effect stitching an outer layer has on the stiffness, strength, and thermal conductivity of two types of aerogel fabric, ThermalWrap and Pyrogel 2250. Tension tests were used to investigate the mechanical properties, while two different methods were used to evaluate the thermal conductivity of the materials. Results showed a dramatic increase of thermal conductivity when an outer material was stitched directly to the aerogel fabric, while two other geometries showed a decrease in thermal conductivity. Tension tests revealed that stitching increased the strength of the ThermalWrap. Overall, it was determined that stitching the material was not a viable option due to the increase in thermal conductivity and difficult manufacturing. The two other geometries tested proved much more effective, as they were easier to manufacture and showed a decrease in thermal conductivity.