University of Vermont

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ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES

UVM One of Five Institutions Selected by NASA to Design and Create Deep Space Technology

Deep space habitats — an outpost on Mars, for example — wouldn’t be complete without a well-designed airlock to allow astronauts to enter and exit safely. UVM has been chosen by NASA to develop technology to do just that. (Image: John Frassanito and Associates for NASA)

Professor Darren Hitt appeared on WCAX for a live in-studio interview Wednesday July 9 to discuss the X-Hab project. Watch the interview

The frontiers of innovation for UVM engineering majors’ senior projects have been varied and far-reaching, impacting real-world places and products from cheese caves to golf clubs. In the coming year, a team of undergraduates, with mentorship from three engineering faculty, will create a prototype designed for use in the farthest-reaching frontier yet: deep space.

Through its Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation have awarded UVM with a grant to develop technology in support of its deep space mission. UVM’s winning proposal, submitted by professors Darren Hitt, principal investigator, Dryver Huston and Mandar Dewoolkar, outlines a smart-structure deployable airlock — an inflatable chamber made with “smart” materials that might be able to self-heal in the event of a small puncture, for example, or to return to its original shape when subjected to environmental loadings. The airlock is intended to move people safely from one pressurized environment to another — think transfer from a spacecraft to a habitat on Mars, for example.

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