© 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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