Inflatable Airlock - University of Vermont
Student Team: Maggie Donovan, John Draper, Juan Pablo Lattanzio Guerreiro and Joseph Maser
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Darren Hitt
Selected by NASA as part of its X-Hab Challenge, University of Vermont’s student team came up with a design to reduce the weight and improve the versatility of a critical space entry: the airlock. This conduit is necessary to enter and exit space stations, vehicles and in the future, lunar or Martian bases. The team’s design transforms the current rigid metal structures into a compact package, deployed by inflating “air beams” that push the airlock out into a semi-rigid structure—think extraterrestrial bouncy castle.
“In space, volume and weight are important design constraints, so this needed to be lightweight,” says project adviser Darren Hitt. NASA advisers consulted on the design and development of the project from its inception. A future iteration, Hitt says, may be made with a self-healing skin that can withstand punctures by micrometeroids.