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SAM Construction – Dry run of the Test Module Lung a success!

Dry test of lung inflation a success! SAM at Biosphere 2 Dry test of lung inflation a success! SAM at Biosphere 2 Dry test of lung inflation a success! SAM at Biosphere 2

The Test Module lung was developed as a “method of managing the effects an internal temperature and external barometric pressure change could cause in a fixed, sealed, glass structure. This problem was solved with a variable volume system joined to the module by an air duct. With increased temperature or decreased barometric pressure in the Test Module compared to the out- side environment, the variable chamber expands; with a decrease in temperature or a increase in pressure, the chamber contracts. The lung structure provides an effective means to prevent the possibility that the Test Module would implode or explode when subjected to these forces. The reservoir of air provided an increased buffering; adding approximately 20-40% to the total atmospheric volume. The weight of the pan on the lung structure insured a positive displacement from inside the closed system to the outside.” — Abigail Alling, Linda Leigh, Taber MacCallum, and Norberto Alvarez-Romo. Biosphere 2 test module experimentation program. Biological Life Support Systems 23 (1990): 32.

The “lung” is a pressure regulation and air storage system first tested 33 years ago as part of the Test Module program. It was then improved upon and scaled to a much larger volume for the Biosphere 2 proper. Today Trent Tresch and volunteer Rob Ronci of Colorado were successful in conducting a dry run inflation of the refurbished Test Module lung.

With the lower lung door only partially sealed, the electrical sub-panel ports not yet complete, and one known leak in the Test Module space frame structure, the lung membrane inflated and rose to an inverted position in just a few minutes of running the inflation fan.

This bodes well for what we believe will be a fully functional test of the lung early next week.

Trent Tresch, Rob Ronci preparing dry-run inflation of the lung at SAM, Biosphere 2 Rob Ronci preparing dry-run inflation of the lung at SAM, Biosphere 2

By |2021-07-05T20:43:59+00:00June 24th, 2021|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

SAM Construction – A race to the finish!

Trent Tresch, Sean Gellenbeck install a new inflation system for SAM at Biosphere 2

We are just ten days from the conclusion of Phase I of construction of SAM, and a week from the start of a series of pressurized tests in which we will monitor temperature, humidity, CO2, O2, and both interior and exterior atmospheric pressures as we seal the Test Module for varied durations of time.

June 20 also marks five months labor at the SAM analog site, from the early efforts in pushing back the desert growth to stripping the Test Module interior down to the frame and grinding, sanding, and cleaning the lung pan, ring, and membrane. In putting it all together again we have primed and painted, welded and wired, shoveled, cut, caulked, sealed, glued and cemented from sunrise to sunset, four to five days a week since January 20.

This kind of adventure may not take its participants across high seas or through dense jungles, but the arduous effort is rewarding in a similar manner. A passion for achieving difficult goals, attention to detail, problem solving, and working within a highly capable, agile team. Our race to the finish is not one of competition with others, but one of upholding a pledge to ourselves, partners, and investor Tech Launch Arizona that we will by the close of the University of Arizona fiscal year refurbish and revive the 1987 Biosphere 2 prototype Test Module as the cornerstone of SAM.

This is our list of actions items that remain, with one week to complete them all:

  • Install two 2 ton mini-split heat pumps (air conditioning).
  • Complete reconstruction of the sealed, lower lung door.
  • Apply the remaining patches to the lung membrane.
  • Patch the one known exterior break in the original silicone sealant.
  • Run electrical power from the exterior 100A service to the sub-panel; then
  • Build-out four electrical 120V sockets for interior use; and
  • Wire the overheads lights to a switch.
  • Fully bleach and scrub the lung interior.
  • Install the interior manual pressure release valve.
  • Conduct a dry pressure test before re-attaching the lung membrane to the ring.

Thank you Sean Gellenbeck, aerospace engineer at Paragon Space Development Corporation and PhD student at the University of Arizona for stopping by SAM and lending an expert hand! Your experience with varied materials and rapid development was well received!

By |2021-06-27T01:39:49+00:00June 21st, 2021|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

LPI Terrestrial Analogs for Planetary Exploration

LPI Terrestrial Analogs Workshop 2021

June 16–18, 2021

The USGS Astrogeology Science Center is hosted a virtual Workshop on Terrestrial Analogs for Planetary Exploration. The workshop brought together community members to discuss a wide range of scientific investigations of planetary analog terrains and processes, exploration strategies, and orbit-to-ground comparisons. Abstracts wre solicited for topics including various planetary processes (volcanic, impact, aeolian, subaqueous, mass-wasting, glacial, tectonic, and others) as well as geophysical, geochemical, and astrobiological investigations. Discussions of field methods, sampling techniques, exploration strategies, technology applications, and ground-truthing were covered, and topics related to data standardization and dissemination. In addition, the workshop addressed analog work that will benefit human and robotic exploration of other planetary surfaces.

Kai Staats provided the closing talk of the day, an overview of the Scalable Analog for the Moon and Mars, SAM.

Workshop Home Page | Workshop Program | SAM Abstract

By |2021-06-19T20:12:57+00:00June 19th, 2021|Categories: Publications|0 Comments

It’s really, really hot

113F in the Test Module, SAM at Biosphere 2

Notice how completely casual Trenton and Natasha appear, despite the intense heat?! As it has been said many times, “It’s a dry heat” We soak our outer shirts with the hose every thirty minutes, enjoy the constant breeze in this high desert region, and drink a lot of water.

The air conditioning units will be installed in one week!

By |2021-06-22T06:30:36+00:00June 17th, 2021|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Biospherian Linda Leigh visits SAM

Kai Staats, Linda Leigh, Trenton Kenney, Douglas May at SAM, Biosphere 2

Today we were honored to receive Linda Leigh, one of the original eight Biospherians. Linda was responsible for coordinating the planning of B2’s land sections as well as collecting, storing, propagating and transferring more than 2,000 plant species for the original 1991-93 experiment. She is a resident of near-by Oracle where she continues her study of and intensive work with plants and food cultivars. She was featured in the 2020 documentary film “Spaceship Earth“. Linda conducted the longest stay in the Biosphere 2 prototype Test Module, sealed inside for three weeks. All of her air, water, food, and waste were recycled by the plant systems contained within. The fully refurbished Test Module is now cornerstone to SAM, the habitat analog being constructed at Biosphere 2.

Linda was joined by Douglas May, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Arizona. Doug mentors the Engineering Capstone team projects each year, and was involved in the team that recently completed the Automated Pressure Regulation System for SAM. Trenton Kenney, volunteer at SAM for the month of June from the University of Minnesota and NASA intern is between Linda and Doug in the banner photo.

We enjoyed Linda’s stories about her time in the Test Module and are eager to learn more about her time in the Biosphere 2, her work as a plant ecology instructor, and continued work in community gardens and as a lecturer.

Welcome back Linda! We look forward to your next visit to SAM!

By |2021-06-24T04:52:16+00:00June 15th, 2021|Categories: Visitors to SAM|0 Comments

SAM Construction – Preservation for the next generation

A bit of overspray!

The Test Module was designed and built as a prototype for the Biosphere 2 in 1987. It was not likely conceived that 33 years later it would be repurposed, sealed up again as a hermetically sealed Mars habitat analog. While the greenhouse (controlled environment) structure itself seems to have held up quite well to the sun and rain of three decades, the lung suffered from a great deal of water collecting on top of the lung pan due to the upper shell of the lung not having been sealed.

The inner sheets of steel were only riveted to the underside of the visible steel ribs such that all precipitation quickly found its way inside, collecting in the bottom of the pan. A great deal of work has been applied to restore the pan, and the full exterior of the lung shell sanded (twice), washed, primed, and painted. The upper, triangular roof elements were coated in a 100% silicone elastomeric while the ribs on the side walls will be sealed with a silicone caulking.

This should inhibit the majority of continue corrosion and degradation over the coming years

Trent painting the lung shell at SAM, Biosphere 2 Kai painting the lung shell at SAM, Biosphere 2

By |2021-06-26T22:04:04+00:00June 10th, 2021|Categories: Construction|0 Comments

Space Radio with Dr. Paul Sutter

Astrophysicist Dr. Paul Sutter interviews SAM Director Kai Staats from within the Biosphere 2!

“This week on Space Radio I had the opportunity to catch up with my good friend Kai Staats. Kai joined us from the grounds of the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 as we talked about his newest project, Space Analog for the Moon and Mars. Among other topics, we discussed the removal of perchlorates from the Martian soil and how Methane could potentially be used.” — Dr. Sutter

By |2021-06-22T06:23:06+00:00June 10th, 2021|Categories: Publications|0 Comments

Kai Staats Presents SIMOC and SAM to the Space Habitat Event

The Space Habitat Event is an international event dedicated to debate the operation of space analog stations and future Mars and Moon colonies / settlements / stations. The theme of this second edition is: “Sustainable Technologies for Future Space Habitats (Moon and Mars) and Analog Space Habitats”.

Director of SAM at Biosphere 2 Kai Staats provided an overview of SIMOC and SAM to the international audience.

By |2021-06-03T19:20:12+00:00June 3rd, 2021|Categories: Publications, Videos|0 Comments

SAM Construction – At the Close of 4 Months

Test Module at night, SAM at Biosphere 2

When Trent, Tim, Terry, John and I dove into the refurbish of the Biosphere 2 Test Module the last week of January, we were overwhelmed by the scope of what lay before us. The lists guiding our effort week to week grew as we discovered projects within projects, as only the hidden gems of a remodel can do.

Yet each day we felt accomplished. Broad, sweeping strokes of physics labor left visible imprints on the landscape of the SAM construction site. Removing the old heat exchanger, cutting up electrical conduit and wiring, and the sanding and painting of the exterior. Physically exhausted, sore hands and feet, each day of tearing down was a day closer to building again.

Then there was a middle time when we were continuing to remove the old while installing the new. Those days were also satisfying, but the effort to find particular parts and assemblies grew to consume as much time as the application or installation itself.

Now, with just one month to go until our first round of funding is complete and our deliverable of a complete first stage due, the project is terribly exciting and sometimes equally frustrating. So many loose ends are coming together! Yet the pieces that remain are complex and multi-faceted, not just a coat of paint or a trench dug to a certain depth. We are down to the stuff that will make or break the function of SAM—determine if SAM will work as a sealed vessel able to hold it’s atmosphere, or lose pressure more quickly than anticipated.

We are now focused on the re-seal of the lung and windows on the west side of the Test Module, install of the mini-split A/C units, and preparation for the first pressure and CO2 levels test. At this critical stage, it feels good to look back since January 20 and appreciate all we have accomplished:
– initial repair (grinding, sanding) of the lung plate
– prep and apply silicone elastomeric to the external top of the lung shell
– prep and first coat of paint of the external, vertical lung shell
– remove debris from the interior of the lung shell
– remove metal ring segments that bound the membrane to the lung plate
– power wash and scrub Hypalon membrane
– extensive research into paints for interior, exterior
– cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning of the Test Module
– removal of the original data collection boxes and visitor signage
– grinding, sanding, and 2 coats primer to the TM base
– removal of the massive heat exchanger and steel platform
– removal of all electrical components; rewiring of the panel
– seal 21 ports and refurbish of the gas exchange manifold
– removal of the two grow beds and wood floor
– scraping, brushing, cleaning (3x) the stainless steel floor
– removal of all former data collection devices and cabling
– pressure wash the entire TM exterior; hand-scrub windows
– application of silicone membrane to the top of the TM
– sand entire interior of the TM; prime primary support beams
– test of window films for closest approximation to lightfall on Mars
– acquisition of a CO2 scrubber from Paragon
– full pressure suit test with Dr. Cameron Smith, Portland State
– removal of the original computer terminal outside the TM
– removal of two dozen root balls from the surrounding yard
– drain water from steel beams; mitigate rust
– apply silicone elastomeric to top and 45 degree windows on the TM
– apply seam seal and acrylic elastomeric to the TM porch roof
– shuffle four windows on the west side of the TM in prep for window tint and re-seal
– apply window tint, reducing optical light by 50% to match that on Mars
– grind and sand the lung ring segments
– attach unistrut and electrical disconnects to the south wall of the TM
– attach unistrut mounts for electrical and water walls
– move a birds nest to save the chicks from construction
– dig a ditch from the 200A electrical panel to the TM to power the HVAC
– pour a new concrete footing for the 200A electrical panel
– pour a concrete slab on the south side of the TM, to the lung
– remove all old threaded studs from the lung plate
– weld all new threaded studs to the lung plate
– remove lung inflation blower, clean, and test
– initiate removal of the five failing greenhouse structure in prep for our Mars yard
– continued development of the Mars yard
– design and initial development gravity off-set rig
– research into the type and cost of shipping containers (quarters)

With the close of May we completed the installation of the new power feed that will bring electricity to the mini-split heat pumps (heating, cooling for the TM) and eventually, to the living space for the inhabitants. We also removed the lung inflation blower, cleaned, and tested this thirty year-old fan. It works perfectly! Next, we will build a rig to attach the motor in a new location, adjacent to the lung itself instead of in the former, boiler building.

By |2021-06-03T19:18:31+00:00June 3rd, 2021|Categories: Construction|0 Comments