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How To MacGyver A Million-Pound Orbiting Space Laboratory?

SPACE TAPE - used by gazprom for siberian mining rescue, and nasa for iss every day missions


Sometimes it is the smallest invention that saves the largest missions.

Think of the many everyday applications we use tape for - scotch tape or electrical tape or duct tape. Then imagine using the same type of tape undersea, trying to repair a piece of coral that has broken off from its colony on a coral ridge. It is freezing, there is moisture, and the surfaces being repaired are similar to moon rock or some exterior space station surfaces. DSG has supported several NASA vendors in product development and global sourcing for two key space products:


SPACE BLANKETS

Multilayer Insulation (MLI) blankets - commonly referred to in aerospace lingo as "space blankets" - provide passive thermal control to a variety of spacecraft, launch vehicles, and instruments in vacuum. They work by limiting the amount of radiative heat transfer through multiple layers of thin reflectors and spacer materials. They are found on everything from GPS satellites to jet aircraft, and are a common material used to insulate ISS (International Space Station) parts requiring insulation.

During one Apollo mission, NASA astronauts even used a space blanket as an emergency substitute for a broken sun-shield.

A common mis-understanding is that the "space blankets' used in space will also keep a human on earth warm. Unfortunately, not true. And in fact, on sunny days, a space blanket will even make you colder.

Space blankets work by limiting "heat loss" from electrical or other parts already generating their own heat. Or by reflecting intense solar radiation so that astronauts are not burned to a crisp. The level of heat loss prevented is never more than the level of heat generated.

Translated to human use - a space blanket will only protect the level of heat the human using it is generating.  Humans who are thin, or at "ideal weight," generate not much body heat, barely enough to keep the body from freezing, and a space blanket will not do much for them. Children are often warmer than adults because they are more active. But a child standing still will be even COLDER than an adult, because children usually have low levels of body fat. (It is a cruel misnomer by some adults to say that children or animals "do not feel the cold.") So space blankets are poor choices for rescue operations, where traditional army wool blankets are possible. Wool has a very high insulation factor and is water-proof.

DSG has worked with NASA vendors on a variety of space blanket variations, and on global product development to re-engineer deep space blankets for other earth uses, such as rescue operations for Siberian mining; and deep sea and northern latitude protection of oill and other drilling or scientific machinery. Some of the blankets allow plugging into a portable generator or heat supplier, to emulate warmth generated by a moving human body.


SPACE TAPE

The use of duct tape in space is well known, but there are really two primary types of tape used by astronauts: duct tape and Kapton or polyimide tape.

Polymide tape is similar to black electrical tape, but coated on both sides with special polymer-like coatings to insulate against temperature extremes (to keep the tape supply and useable), and manufactured with special materials that do not produce off-gases. Even minute amounts of off-gassing can be dangerous in closed-system space station environments. It is preferred to normal duct tape because duct tape, in addition to not offering insulation or special coatings to maintain flexibility or adhesion in severe conditions, emits methane gas. (The same chemical substance found in sewer gas that not only smells bad, but makes people sick.)