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Robot Helper Design Challenge
Preliminary Designs

Holy Cross College: Mr. Nowbut
GROUP MEMBERS: Phillip, Keshtav, Matthew,
Mark and Anand (group leader)

TOPIC: What can the robots do for the astronauts on the ISS

On the ISS, due to the high cost of continually sending cylinders of oxygen to the spacecraft, the oxygen is recycled over and over. I am currently working on an attachment to my robot that would aid in this task. The following are my ideas on how the attachment would work.

CO2 is trapped by a regenerable molecular sieve and is desorbed by opening a vacuum compartment in the robot. From the compartment, the co2 is taken to another section. In there, the co2 is heated at high temperatures with hydrogen gas and a catalyst until it is reduced into O2 and solid carbon (we use the Bosch reactor). This compartment is made like a thermos flask as in heat cannot be lost from it by radiation, convection or by conduction. The oxygen is then reemitted into the direct atmosphere and the solid carbon vented out into space. This device in the robot may only be activated when the spectrometers recognize that over 3% of the air on the ISS is carbon dioxide. This may indicate some malfunction in the Environment Control Life Support System. This device to be installed in the robot maybe only used as a precautionary mechanism, but it can also ensure the survival of the crewmembers in the occurrence of the malfunction of any of the oxygen revitalizing apparatus. I believe that human life is most precious, and all necessary precautions should be taken to ensure the sustenance of the astronauts‚ lives on the ISS.

The spectrometers to be used would be slightly modified. They would be programmed to, when carbon dioxide levels reach too high, „switch on‰ the Bosch reactor, to get rid of some of the CO2. If the volume that the air on the ISS occupies is, lets say, 3,000,000cm3. If the robot takes in 30 cm3 to be analyzed with the spectrometer, it would be programmed such that if 0.9 cm of the air processed was CO2, the reactor should be turned on. If up to 6cm3 of CO2 is collected in one inspection, an alarm would go off in the robot that would alert the astronauts what is happening. This may be some indication as to the failure of the Environment Control Life Support System.  !

The robot can also be used as a mean of waste disposal and a way of making energy. Pieces of feces and other dead organic matter can be placed in a compartment of the robot that contains bacteria. These bacteria would be contained in a fortified containment unit so that there is no possibility of it escaping and possibly causing an epidemic on the ISS. The only way into and out of the bacteria filled compartment would be the pipes that bring the feces and those that take away the methane. The methane can be converted into electricity and this electricity can in turn be used to provide the heat that is needed in the Bosch reactor.

The robot will provide visual aid in and out of the ISS via the cameras and infrared scanners to be placed on its head and other deliberately planned sites. The cameras would be able to rotate 360 degrees on its axis thus providing full coverage of its surrounding environment. The cameras on the robot will be used to tape experiments done outside of the ISS, as the robot itself would be able to comfortably maneuver in the environment outside. The infrared scanners can be used to detect heat signatures, this can be useful incase there is a leak in the ISS and the air was escaping through the breech.

Also, we are working on an attachment to the robot that would enable the machine to make both small and large repairs on the ISS. It is designed so that it can comfortably reach places where the astronauts cannot. The astronauts on the ISS would control this apparatus and would be able to see what they are doing through the installed cameras.

We have yet to design a device that would monitor the pressure of the air. We do, however, know that if the air pressure drops, our robot will be equipped to provide the amt of air necessay to ensure a constant pressure. Also, we need to formulate something would would keep a constant temperature, as for a mixed mass of gas held at constant volume, the pressure it exerts will be preportional to its temp.


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