Award for study of astronauts’ work environment
SINTEF’s Atle Honne has been awarded the prestigious “SAE 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 trialled 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 organisation, 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 organisation’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.
Nearly 130,000 members
SAE International is a worldwide organisation of 130,000 engineers and technical experts in the space, aviation and automotive industries. SAE issues most of the technical standards used in these sectors.
Next stop: the Earth
Award-winner Atle Honne explains 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 utilised 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. Just as on Earth, in a space station gases ? from walls, internal objects and equipment. 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,” adds Honne.
Next goal: permanent deployment
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.