Astronaut Work Environment Study Receives Wright Brothers Medal
SINTEF’s Atle Honne has been awarded SAE International’s prestigious Wright Brothers Medal for a gas measurement method that is being used to monitor air quality on board the International Space Station (ISS). In 2007 and 2008, the air inside the ISS was monitored by the ANITA gas measurement system developed by SINTEF and the German company Kayser-Threde GmbH. ANITA’s task was to ensure that astronauts would not be forced to breathe hazardous or unpleasant gases while they were in space. In the space station, the system was trialed in parallel with existing air-quality monitoring systems.
ANITA identifies gases by means of optical measurements in the infrared, a methodology that offers much faster and more accurate readings than conventional systems for the analysis of several trace components of complex gas mixtures. Led by research scientist Atle Honne, SINTEF ICT developed the method employed by ANITA to interpret its measurements. This method allows as many as 33 gases to be measured simultaneously in complex gas mixtures.
Medal for advance in flight technology
At a conference of the SAE International engineering organization, Honne described the method and compared the results from the ISS with those of other measurements. The article submitted to the conference gained Honne and his co-authors the organization’s aviation and aerospace prize. The medal itself was given to Honne alone, while his co-authors received framed certificates. The medal and the prize are named for, the pioneers of manned flight Orville and Wilbur Wright, and are awarded for contributions to aviation or space flight technology.
Next stop: the Earth
Award-winner Atle Honne explained that the analysis of complex gas mixtures is an area of special effort in SINTEF ICT. “The aerospace industry is interesting for us because it is a very demanding market. If a measurement method passes through the needle’s eye in space, it is well qualified for earth-based applications. The methodology that we have utilized in ANITA can be used to check air quality in submarines, aircraft, laboratories and other types of environment in which this type of control may be vital.”
And it is also capable of monitoring industrial processes and environmental emissions, such as gas discharges from agricultural activities.
Good, rapid identification ability
Honne points out that ANITA’s measurements are important for manned space flight. The human body also emits gases, while other gases have their sources in leakages or overheated materials.
“ANITA demonstrated that it is possible to measure several gases rapidly and simultaneously. The temporal aspect is important, because the astronauts need to have time to put countermeasures into effect in the event of leakages or failure of the air-purification system. During its years in space, ANITA also showed that it could ‘see’ gases that other measuring instruments didn’t discover,” added Honne.
SINTEF’s developed ANITA on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), with support from the Norwegian Space Centre. SINTEF is currently in the process of developing a second version of ANITA, with a view to having this instrument installed as part of the standard equipment of the ISS.
About the Wright Brothers Medal
This award, established in 1927, annually recognizes the author(s) of the best paper(s) relating to the invention, development, design, construction or operation of an aircraft and/or spacecraft presented at a meeting of the Society of Automobile Engineers or any of its sections. Consideration is given to the value of the author(s) contribution to the state of the art in furthering flight technology, whether it pertains to aircraft or spacecraft systems or their parts, components, subsystems, or accessories. The award honors Orville (an early SAE member) and Wilbur Wright, the first successful builders and operators of heavier-than-air flying equipment.