NASA has entered a new era of human space exploration with the Artemis Program, hoping to establish a long-term presence on the Moon. In order to meet the needs of that program, new textiles will have to be developed to keep astronauts safe, while still enabling them to perform at their best. In the solicitation, NASA has identified two specific areas for textile innovation: (Part A) the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) Environmental Protection Garment (EPG), and (Part B) crew clothing fabrics for shirt-sleeve environments in oxygen-rich atmospheres. Paragon Space Development Corporation (Paragon) and North Carolina State University (NCSU) propose a new EPG for the xEMU, known as the Spacesuit Cover against the Abrasive Lunar Environment (SCALE), to address the challenges in Part A, and a new clothing material, known as the eXploration Textile for high-Oxygen eNvironments (xTON), to satisfy the requirements in Part B. SCALE uses a bio-inspired design, with a hard exterior and soft interior, to give the outer layer of the EPG enough strength to withstand the abrasiveness of lunar dust without reducing its flexibility and comfort. Hard mineral platelets will be grafted on to a soft polymer scaffold in a manner that mimics the Bouligand-type arrangement observed on Arapaima gigas, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. xTON clothing will be made from a commercially selected spun yarn. This project proposes to explore a variety of knitting and weaving strategies to develop novel comfort fabrics for the crew. Different test methods will be applied to prototypes of SCALE and xTON, with a subcontract to a third party (Bud Labs) for the lunar abrasion tests. Finally, Paragon will assess the two materials’ TRLs and paths to commercialization.
NASA is looking for innovative textiles for spacesuits and crew clothing during the Artemis missions. Two major gaps identified indicate a lack of commercial-off-the-shelf textiles that meet extreme environment requirements and a lack of knowledge of the effects of lunar dust on them. This work will benefit several space programs, including the International Space Station, Human Landing System, Gateway, and Orion. This work will directly benefit NASA with unique technological advancements that contribute to human spaceflight exploration.
SCALE applications include commercial space stations and any industries where ruggedized protection may be necessary, ranging from extreme sports to desert applications. xTON has fashion spin-off potential and fire-resistant applications for aviation, race car driving, oil rig operations, firefighting, and other industries.