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Luna Innovations Incorporated, a global leader in advanced fiber optic-based technology, recently shared that it has been selected as one of only 14 companies to partner with NASA in the agency’s “Moon to Mars” exploration studies. With a $2 million award from NASA’s fourth competitive “Tipping Point solicitation,” Luna’s fiber optic sensors will be embedded within inflatable space habitats to monitor their structural health and safety.
Inflatable habitats are designed to be used both in orbit as well as on the surface of other worlds. For sustained exploration of the Moon and Mars, inflatable habitats are a leading solution to reduce the weight of space structures as well as to enable future long-term missions and planetary habitation. There is a real need to accurately and safely monitor the structural health and integrity of these habitats, since many traditional methods don’t work well with the soft, flexible materials used. Luna’s fiber optic sensors are highly accurate, nearly weightless and minimally invasive, so the sensors can be embedded in materials during the manufacturing process. The accuracy of Luna’s sensors allows for identification and localization of the effects of impact damage, pressure loading, and structural anomalies on the inflatable habitat.
“It is an honor to be a part of NASA’s Moon to Mars project, and to be able to contribute to the future of Mars and lunar exploration,” Scott Graeff, President and CEO of Luna Innovations, said. “Data obtained by our embedded fiber optic sensors will help identify and localize the effects of impact damage and structural anomalies on inflatable habitats, significantly enhancing space habitat safety and reliability.”
The project will begin with a two-month test period, using a scaled inflatable habitat with embedded Luna fiber optic sensors and subjected to a representative environment. During this initial phase, data will be gathered and compared to other external measurements and, along with system integration studies, used to evaluate optimal methods for integrating Luna’s sensors in future inflatable habitat designs.