© Illustration | Gernot Walter

The secret of the cosmonaut’s case

A mobile venti­la­tion system provides fresh air for Russian astro­nauts’ suits

Just before they board their rocket, astro­nauts like to give a quick wave to the cameras. And they always have a little case in their other hand. What do they keep in it? A packed lunch perhaps? If they are Russian cosmo­nauts it will actu­ally be a fan from ebm-papst. The case is in fact a mobile venti­la­tion system. This is connected to the space­suit by way of tubes to supply it with fresh clean air.

Space­suits are hermet­i­cally sealed: There is not even the slightest exchange of air with the surrounding atmos­phere. Which means that they would soon become unbear­able without any venti­la­tion: Perspi­ra­tion and body heat alone would be enough to create an intol­er­able situ­a­tion quickly leading to total over­heating. For this reason use is made of a mobile suit venti­la­tion system for ground training and on the way to the launch pad. In the space capsule and in outer space venti­la­tion is then provided by the on-board system.

Handy and durable

The Moscow-based compa­nies Eco-Intech Ltd. and Sokla Ltd. design and manu­fac­ture mobile space­suit venti­la­tion systems for the Russian Space Agency Roskosmos. The portable unit uses an EC centrifugal fan from ebm-papst to blow fresh air into the suit and helmet without any warming or cooling effect. To quote Nikolay Dudkin, General Director of Eco-Intech: “It is not an air condi­tioning device but rather an air supply system, actu­ally quite a simple appli­ca­tion. What makes the unit special however is the fact that it has to func­tion reli­ably for hours at a time despite being light­weight, compact and handy.” With its powerful lithium polymer battery and a sophis­ti­cated micro­processor system, the portable venti­la­tion unit weighing six kilos can keep going for six hours – ample time for an inten­sive, unin­ter­rupted training session.

Require­ments fully satis­fied

Eco-Intech specialises in mobile and stationary devices for analysing the chem­ical compo­si­tion of the air, used for example for moni­toring pollu­tants in urban areas or labo­ra­to­ries. “We used to buy our blowers from a Russian manu­fac­turer. But in the case of the portable venti­la­tion unit, ebm-papst was the only supplier capable of satis­fying all our own require­ments as well as those of Roskosmos”, says Dudkin.

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