UCF Team Develops Hazard-Gas Detecting Sensor for Spacecraft

By: Zenaida Kotala on

A team of UCF researchers has developed a hazardous-gas detecting sensor that may be used to detect and prevent fires aboard spacecraft.

The team published its findings in the only international peer-reviewed journal dedicated to space innovation and entrepreneurship. The article describes a hazardous-gas-detecting sensor that uses broadband light-emitting, diode-based absorption spectroscopy. That means the sensor uses LEDs in the mid-infrared range to detect gases involved in fire. The team of engineers, physicists, and others tested their model on NASA’s HASP high-altitude balloon flight in September.

“This kind of technology will become more and more important as private space-tourism travel matures and extended space trips become more routine,” said Subith Vasu, an engineering professor and one of the authors of the paper.

Two of the dangers in spaceflight are fire and toxic gases. Coming up with accurate fire-detection systems will be needed to keep space explorers safe. The new sensor could be used to detect and then warn of potential fire threats when certain levels of gases are detected.

The research team completed its work at Vasu’s Combustion, Propulsion, Laser, Diagnostics & Absorption Sensors and Fuels Lab at the University of Central Florida with funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, Florida Space Institute, and Space Florida.

The research team included UCF postdoctoral scholar Anthony Terracciano; graduate students Kyle Thurmond, Michael Villar, Justin Urso, Erik Ninnemann, Akshita Parupalli and Zachary Loparo; engineering Professors Jayanta Kapat and Vasu. Other contributors were Nickolas Demidovich from the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation in Washington and William P. Partridge from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The article was the cover story of the New Space journal. The March edition also included articles by Elon Musk and other heavyweights in the field of commercial space.

The journal, edited by Scott Hubbard at Stanford University, aims to provide a way for industry, academia and government agencies to share knowledge that would encourage the growth of space enterprises and products that will benefit society.

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