So far we have finished one project! Check it out below, or read about it here.
Our first project was to design, prototype, and manufacture a functional and collapsible airlock. We were able to present our design at an international conference, and have constructed a prototype, ready for testing before the end of May 2019. With this work, we have already inspired other universities to join us, in our very own Mars Colony competition, more information regarding the competition can be found further below.
Current unfinished model of our collapsible airlock.
Conceptualization, design, and initial testing
The fall of 2016 consisted of researching various things regarding the Martian planet such as atmosphere, current airlock designs, and space programs. After the research stage was over, the team entered brainstorming mode. From there the engineering design process was used iteratively in order to find the best design along with various tests to ensure the design was robust. In this stage, the tests that we came up with include: pressure testing different materials and the main structure’s seals, various tensile tests in case of a catastrophic failure, controlling the pumps and motors, and validating the door’s mechanisms.
The first two photos show two different test fixtures to test various materials under pressure. The last two photos show our team in the research and design phase.
Prototyping, manufacturing, and iteration
With a detailed design created from what we learned in the first year, we have been able to start testing in the fall of 2017. Then later in early 2018, we were able to put together the larger mechanisms that will be a part of the airlock. Our three sub-teams, electrical, structural, and mechanical, have been working together to ensure the airlock functions smoothly. During this past year, we have found various suppliers and sponsors to help allow us to build the airlock. Our team has been working hard to assemble the airlock in a mock capsule, reassemble it like we would on Mars, and troubleshoot any problems that arise.
Putting together various parts of the airlock.
Our team was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to show the world our design at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in October 2018. At this event, our captain presented a paper along with a presentation to the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). Our team members who presented the team at the IAC had the chance to explore the exhibition, attend technical sessions, meet people in the industry, and much more!
Above are various pictures highlighting the IAC 2018.
To measure our success, we will be testing in conditions like the Martian environment. The plan is to pressurize the inside of our airlock to represent the pressure difference between Mars and habitable air pressure.
Both pictures above show our near completed airlock while the second one demonstrates how collapsible our airlock really is!
Final Build & Pressurization
We were able to complete our build of the airlock in May 2019. We proudly showcased the entire airlock and colony for the first time at the Project Airlock competition.
Inserting the floorboards into the assembly
Airlock being showcased at the Project Airlock Competition
We soon moved onto pressurizing the Colony section.