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1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to an emergency safe haven for use in terrestrial and space environments.
2. Description of the Prior Art
Dangerous environmental conditions can arise from a variety of sources. Perhaps the most familiar are situations involving military conflict where chemical agents, smoke, radioactive particles, and biological pathogens are deliberately released into the atmosphere to injure people.
In response to this threat, a number of countermeasures have been developed to protect people from expose to these dangerous conditions. Most notably, there are contamination resistant suits that can be worn, which allows a person a level of mobility combined with a degree of safety from expose to dangerous elements.
While these suits have proven to be invaluable, the suits do have some drawbacks. A person needs time put on an environmental protective suit. Depending on the type of suit, dressing can take a substantial amount of time. Should a person be in a battlefield environment, there might not be enough time before being lethal exposure. Also, a self-contained suit has a limited supply of oxygen and no way to allow a person to eat or drink. This severely restricts the applicability to the suit to a short-term application. Furthermore, in many situations, mobility is not an issue and using a suit is more restrictive than necessary.
Military situations are not the only way the release of an airborne contaminant can threaten human life. The release could be accidental. This can happen, for example, in laboratory settings and transportation accidents resulting from train/truck wrecks containing hazardous materials. In these situations, there is usually not enough time for a person to use a protective suit.
While these situations focus on the terrestrial release of contaminants, life-threatening situations can occur beyond Earth.
Manned spacecraft are designed to provide a variety of life support features that are not endemic to extra-terrestrial environments known to date. These features include providing, among other things, a source of oxygen, water, food and environmental controls, e.g. temperature and pressure.
These artificial environments can support human life, but there are risks associated with a spacecraft in an extra-terrestrial environment. For example, a spacecraft's hull can be breached in a number of ways. Bombardment by space debris traveling at high velocities, normal wear from exposure to high levels of radiation, and accidents occurring from within the spacecraft are but a few such examples.
When the integrity of a spacecraft's hull is compromised, air can escape from the craft. This loss of air creates a potentially life threatening situation for the crew. One way to address this problem is for the crew to fix the leak. However, there could be situations where the leak is not easily located or repaired. In such circumstances, the crew could put on a space suit.
The downside to this procedure is that it typically takes a long time to get suited up and conventional space suits have a limited air supply and a crewmember cannot eat from within a space suit. Furthermore, if the emergency requires each crewmember to use a suit, there may not be enough room for everyone in a suit to move around or even wear a suit in the confines of a spacecraft.
If the rate of air loss is too great, or a repair is not practical, then the crew needs an alternative to a space suit.
Whether on Earth or extra-terrestrially, there arise times of emergency where every second counts and a person must resort to a habitable environment. In those times of emergency, what is needed is a safe haven that is rapidly deployable, can accommodate a number of people, and provides an air supply for more than a short period of time.
An emergency safe haven is claimed. The emergency safe haven has a crew compartment and an anteroom connected to one another, each having a closure and each having a compacted shape and an expanded shape. When the crew compartment and anteroom is in an expanded shape, a crewmember can enter the anteroom through the anteroom closure and move into the crew compartment through the crew compartment closure. An air supply provides a breathable atmosphere for the inhabitants of the crew compartment and the anteroom.
FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional side view of the emergency safe have in a compacted shape;
FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional side view of the emergency safe haven in an expanded shape;
FIG. 3 is cross-sectional view of the outer shell and the inner shell;
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a closure;
FIG. 5 is a frontal view of a closure; and
FIG. 6 is a frontal view of a closure.
The present invention may best be understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view of an emergency safe haven 10 in a compacted shape. There is an anteroom 12 having an interior volume 14 and a crew compartment 16 that also has an interior volume 16. Also present is a pressurized gas reservoir 20, an air supply 22, a food source 24, and a water source 26.
Turning to FIG. 2, the emergency safe haven 10 is in an expanded shape. A gas reservoir valve 21 is connected between the pressurized gas reservoir 20 and to the internal volumes 14 and 16. Upon activation of the gas reservoir valve 21, gas is released from the pressurized gas reservoir 20 into the internal volumes 14 and 16. Activation of the valve 21 may be done by any number of well-known means including an electrical switch or a manual lever.
In one embodiment, the valve 21 only allows gas to enter the volumes 14 and 16 if the pressure in either volume falls below a specified amount. In conjunction with this embodiment, a one-way valve 23 allows gas to enter into the anteroom volume 14 from the crew compartment volume 16. Thus, when a crewmember enters the anteroom, the pressure in the anteroom would drop and activate the valve 23 that in turn reduces the pressure in the crew compartment and then the valve 21 would allow gas to enter the crew compartment to replenish the escaped gas. This is the preferred embodiment.
In another embodiment, the valve 21 would be connected to the crew compartment and also linked to the anteroom by a tube 25. Gas would be allowed to flow from the pressurized gas reservoir 20 to either the crew compartment or the anteroom to compensate for a drop in pressure.
With the gas valve 21 activated, the anteroom 12 and the crew compartment 16 inflate to the expanded state. During the inflation, the anteroom closure 30 and the crew compartment closure 32 are in the closed position. FIG. 2 identifies the closures 30 and 32 as being open only to identify the location of the closures relative to the safe haven 10.
The air supply 22 can take a number of forms. In one embodiment, the air supply 22 can be a system that re-circulates and purifies the air within the safe haven. In the preferred embodiment, the air supply 22 can be a compressed air source. The air within the safe haven would be expelled out of the safe haven as the Oxygen was depleted and more air would be provided by the compressed air source. In another embodiment, air external to the safe haven could be filtered and provided to the occupants and the depleted air would then be vented from the safe haven. Air flowing to and from the safe have would be moved through a valve 28.
FIG. 3 identifies the fabric outer shell 34 and the air barrier inner shell 36 that is used to house the crew compartment and the anteroom. The air barrier inner shell 36 provides a substantially airtight barrier. The fabric outer shell 34 transfers the pressure load on the air barrier 36 and provides a measure of protection against external damage to the air barrier. The material of the outer shell 34 can be chosen to provide a level of protection against corrosive chemicals. The material for the outer shell 34 can also be chosen to reduce contamination to the occupants of the safe haven by radioactive substances.
In an extraterrestrial environment, the fabric outer shell can be a high performance fiber such as Vectran®, which is the preferred embodiment. The air barrier inner shell 36 is made of a low permeability material. In the preferred embodiment, for an extraterrestrial application, Cepac® HD-200 is the preferred material.
Depending upon the application, for example on Earth, a thicker and more rugged flooring material may be used to protect the inner shell 36. In this environment the preferred coating material would be a layer of polyurethane.
Referring to FIG. 4, the anteroom closure 38 is displayed in an open position. The closure 38 can be secured in place by the use of attachment means such as a zipper, snaps, slide fasteners, Velcro®, or a semi-adhesive material. In the preferred embodiment, a zipper is used around the closure's periphery 40.
Once closed, the anteroom closure 38 covers the access port in a substantially airtight manner by a variety of means that prevent contamination from entering the anteroom through any openings on the closure's periphery 40. In one embodiment, a flap 42 can be released to cover the closure and the periphery 40. In FIG. 5, the closure is shown in the closed position. The flap 42 covers the closure 38. The edge of the flap 42 has an adhesive strip that secures the flap to the inside surface of the anteroom 46. This adhesion provides a substantially airtight barrier between the flap 42 and the surface of the anteroom 46 thereby reducing the chance of contaminants entering the anteroom from the closure periphery.
In FIG. 6, an alternate method for providing a substantially airtight barrier is presented. A strip 48 is attached to the anteroom surface 46 such that a portion of the strip overlaps the periphery of the closure 40. The overlapping portion of the strip has an adhesive surface that faces the anteroom surface 46. When the closure is in the closed position, the adhesive surface of the strip is placed into contact with the anteroom surface 46. This provides a substantially airtight barrier. Such an arrangement is the preferred embodiment.
The adhesive is not so strong as to be a permanent adhesive. Rather, it is strong enough to secure the flap or strip to the surface of the anteroom and yet can be removed and reapplied without significant loss of adhesive power.
The closure for the crew compartment operates in the same fashion as explained for the anteroom.
Inflation can be accomplished by electrical or mechanical activation of the valve 21 of FIG. 2. Once inflated, a crewmember can gain access to the anteroom volume 14 of FIG. 2 by opening the anteroom closure 30 and moving into the volume 14. The closure 30 is closed and made substantially airtight by the means identified in FIGS. 5 and 6 as discussed above. The crewmember can open the crew compartment closure 32 and move into the crew compartment volume 16. Then crew compartment closure 32 is then closed and made substantially airtight in the same way as for the anteroom closure. Once inside of the crew compartment volume 16, the occupant can activate the air supply by now means including electrical or mechanical activation.
A novel emergency safe haven has thus been described. It is important to note that many configurations can be constructed from the ideas presented. Thus, nothing in the specification should be construed to limit the scope of the claims.