As space exploration ventures expand to the moon and Mars, NASA will need automated technologies to keep habitats operational when unoccupied by astronauts.
NASA chose a Purdue-led proposal as a Space Technology Research Institute to advance space habitat designs using resilient, autonomous systems, according to a NASA press release. The Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats Institute aims to design and operate resilient deep space habitats that can adapt and rapidly recover from both expected and unexpected disruptions. By integrating expertise in civil infrastructure with autonomous robotics and hybrid simulation, RETHi will mature deep space habitats that can operate in manned and unmanned conditions.
“We are focused on building resilience,” Shirley Dyke, Purdue principal investigator, said via email. “Three capabilities are being exploited to do this. The first is passive resilience capacity. The second is using sensing and monitoring to detect disruptions and deal with them. The third is to have a layer of defense that uses automation and robotics for maintenance and repair.”
RETHi plans to create a cyber-physical prototype testbed that will develop and validate different capabilities.
“The aim is to demonstrate resilient design and validate new techniques for health management,” Dyke said. “The idea is that we will be able to swap components with their ‘digital twins’ and do a wide range of experiments to look at the interactions between components.”
The multidisciplinary team is led by Dyke in partnership with the University of Connecticut, Harvard University, and the University of Texas at San Antonio as well as industry partners ILC Dover and Collins Aerospace.
Purdue faculty and NASA have collaborated many times, such as the Cislunar Initiative, announced July 18 by Mung Chiang, dean of the College of Engineering. It aims to expand access to the cislunar space, the region encompassing Earth and the moon, and advance the space-based economy.
“Our Cislunar Initiative will develop the research and talent pipeline to get human beings back on the moon, stay there and explore much beyond,” Chiang said via email.