Laser-Based Sensors for Environmental Monitoring Spacecraft Fire Safety
MDL is developing combustion product monitoring instruments to address manned spacecraft fire safety for future NASA missions. Using semiconductor lasers to probe molecular absorption lines at infrared wavelengths, these instruments provide a real-time record of ambient gas concentrations with remarkable sensitivity and specificity. Laser-based sensors sniff out the slightest increase in the levels of poisonous gases generated by accidental fires with rapid response time and long-term measurement stability. The latest JPL instrument pictured below simultaneously monitors ambient levels of CO, HCl, HCN, HF, and CO2 using mid-infrared lasers fabricated in the MDL cleanroom facility. Using this five-channel sensor, the target gases are detected at the parts-per-million level. Looking ahead to interplanetary manned spaceflight missions, it will become even more critical to provide astronauts with exceptionally accurate combustion sensors capable of long-duration, service-free operation.