Space Technology Rocketing Upwards | Printed Electronics World Leave a comment

Space. The final frontier, the first step in a journey just beginning, or a horrifying void matched only by your deep fear of the ocean? Whatever your feelings on space, technology has been steadily pushing forwards to take exploration further, faster, and foodier than ever before.

Many people are familiar with the concept of freeze-dried food for astronauts, from the exciting freeze-dried ice-cream to the more common freeze-dried fruits that can be seen in cereals such as Special K. Perfect for a novelty treat, or breakfast with a splash of milk, but flawed for long expeditions into the unknown.


It is extremely difficult to provide astronauts with any food that isn’t super sterile, dried, long-life food. As a result, many astronauts experience weight loss on the missions, and in long-term space travel, poor food quality is a major problem concerning mental and physical health. Any student who has eaten pot noodles 3 meals a day for a month may be familiar with the issue.


Innovations such as little hydroponic systems for growing some green food are therefore extremely interesting developments for the industry. NASA has begun to implement research on using this method to grow crops in space; NASA plant physiologist Ray Wheeler, Ph.D. and colleagues have been studying ways to grow safe, fresh food crops efficiently off the Earth. Most recently, astronauts on the International Space Station harvested and ate a variety of red romaine lettuce that they activated and grew in a plant growth system called Veggie. Other vegetables Wheeler identifies as very promising for space agriculture include sweet potatoes, wheat, and soybeans.


Yes, astronauts do use a vacuum in the vacuum of space. Unlike on earth, dust and debris won’t settle but may instead accumulate in air vents, so astronauts use vacuums to collect what they can. The issue of cleanliness in space runs far deeper than some dust and some crumbs, though, and this is where antimicrobial technology comes in.


In microgravity, the immune response is weakened, which calls for extra caution with cleanliness. Many infectious bacteria, on the other hand, have no such issues. In fact, some studies have shown that bacteria in space can survive drug concentrations that would prove fatal to them on earth. So, it comes as no surprise to learn that many astronauts have been struck down by infection while on their adventures.


Aerogels are essential to certain space applications, though they have found markets down to earth in the 21st Century. Aerogels are created by removing liquid components from a gel while maintaining the gel structure. The resulting material provides very effective insulation whilst being incredibly lightweight – vital for a vehicle trying to resist gravity and blast into the freezing expanse of space.


Oros Apparel provide “NASA inspired” clothing, which initially started with a Lukla jacket in 2015. The proprietary SolarCore lining is leading the way in this technology, providing a good performance down to -50 ºC and breathability. Another key development here has been the use in PrimaLoft Gold. Other products previously released with embedded aerogel technology include:
  • Shiver Shield have released trousers and jackets
  • Kenchen water-resistant suede jackets
  • Rocky S2V provision jacket
  • Salomon include the Toundra snow boot
  • Outdoor Research Gloves and boots


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