NASA Working on Inflatable Pods to Explore Venus

NASA Venus missionNASA’s Space Mission Analysis Branch (SMAB) recently revealed a research project it is working on to send astronauts to Venus. The project calls for inflatable pods that would float above clouds in Venus’ atmosphere to house the astronauts.

The project is called the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC). The SMAB is working on the mission architecture and vehicle for the exploration. The plan was unveiled through a movie and image posted on a NASA website.

The conceptual design envisions inflatable silver blimp-like air balloons that could house two astronauts. They would live and work in the pods for up to a month while floating in Venus’ upper atmosphere. The vehicles currently under development could be used to transport a variety of instruments and probes to explore the planet and its atmosphere. NASA plans to perform aerocapture maneuvers at Venus and Earth, insert and inflate the airship when it reaches Venus, and protect the structure and its solar panels from the sulfuric acid in Venus’ atmosphere.

According to NASA, sending a manned mission to Venus would require less time than sending an expedition to Mars. The mission would also be easier because unlike Mars, Venus has an environment with gravity, pressure, and density similar to those of Earth.

NASA says further advances in technology will be necessary before it can undertake the mission. It will also need to further refine the concept and design to make its goal a reality.

The space agency is already working on other technologies that can be used on space missions. Earlier this year, astronauts on the International Space Station created the first 3D-printed object in space. NASA is currently working on 3D-printing tools to use on the ISS.

Inflatable Pillow Lets Travelers Sleep Comfortably

Pillowpacker inflatable pillowGarry Logue and Beth Shepherd have traveled all over the world for both work and vacations. The husband and wife would always take their pillows with them because they wanted to be sure that they would be able to sleep comfortably on their trips. Whenever they traveled together, they always had one suitcase exclusively for their pillows.

When the couple took a two-week trip to the Canadian Arctic in 2008, they were not able to take their pillows along because they could only take what they could carry on their backs. They had many sleepless nights on the trip.

After that experience, they decided to create a comfortable pillow that travelers could take with them on trips. They spent a year designing and testing prototypes before they launched the Pillowpacker Pillow, an inflatable, contoured pillow that is easy to transport.

The pillow is inflated with quick puffs of air to the desired firmness. It is deflated by turning a valve and compressing it. When it is deflated, the pillow measures 48×36 centimeters. The pillow, cover, and 100 percent cotton pillowcase can be rolled up and inserted into a nylon stuff sack to make them easy to carry.

The pillow has a duck down or hypoallergenic microfiber cover that is comfortable, hygienic, and compact. The pillows are fully washable. They are made in Ottawa, and the duck down is from Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

The global headquarters is in their home in Ottawa. They have sold over 800 pillows since 2010 to customers around the world who use them on all kinds of trips. Their target demographic is people who like to travel in comfort and who value quality. While the pillows are expensive, many travelers are willing to pay a premium for a good night’s sleep.

Inflatable Snug Vest Can Help Autistic Children

Snug VestThe Snug Vest, an inflatable vest that applies pressure similar to a hug, is helping children with autism around the world.

Deep pressure therapy uses firm pressure to the torso to increase focus and attention. The therapy is especially helpful for people with anxiety, stress, or sensory disorders, such as autism. Deep pressure therapy typically uses weighted vests to apply pressure, but those vests sometimes appear clunky and can be difficult to use.

Lisa Fraser invented the Snug Vest as her thesis project in the industrial design program at Emily Carr University in Canada in 2009. She was inspired by her knowledge of deep pressure therapy and decided to create an inflatable vest, rather than one that used weights.

The Snug Vest can be slipped on like a jacket and fastens in the front. A child can put on the Snug Vest without assistance and inflate it to a pressure that he or she finds comfortable. This gives the child a degree of independence that is not possible with other vests, which require assistance to put on.

The Snug Vest is inflated with an attachable hand pump. It distributes pressure evenly throughout the sides, shoulders, and back of the torso to create a feeling similar to a hug. It does not place pressure on the chest or stomach. Pressure can be adjusted easily in small increments.

The Snug Vest is not cumbersome and does not limit mobility. It can be worn discreetly nearly anywhere. The Snug Vest is adjustable to grow with the child. It has a hood to block out light and distractions, and pockets can provide further comfort.

Fraser went through 200 prototypes before she perfected the design. She began selling the Snug Vest in 2013, and the response has been overwhelming.

She initially promoted the Snug Vest in the media and then relied on word of mouth. The company has also begun spreading the word at industry conferences. They have sold over 450 vests around the world.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Victoria, which was funded in part by the company, found that behavior and attention improved for children who wore the Snug Vest, even up to 20 minutes after taking it off. The company conducted its own study of 15 children, and parents and caregivers reported improvements.

Trekkayak Inflatable Catamaran Can Fit in a Backpack

Trekkayak inflatable catamaranThe Trekkayak inflatable catamaran can be packed into a backpack, carried into the wilderness, and then unpacked and inflated so that its rider can continue exploring by water.

The Swedish team that developed the Trekkayak based their design on inflatable packrafts already on the market. They modified existing designs to offer additional features and options and to improve performance and safety.

Traditional packrafts consist of an oblong flotation tube with a hollowed-out deck. The Trekkayak, however, has dual hulls. Each has an inner polyurethane bladder and outer Cordura skin. A separate piece of Cordura links the two hulls and forms a seat that allows the rider to sit above the water. Two detachable carbon fiber rods connect the hulls and provide additional structure and stability. The seat fabric attaches with a “crocodile” Velcro system.

The design offers several advantages compared to packrafts. The dual hulls give the catamaran more directional stability than a raft and more stability than a kayak. The Trekkayak requires a sharp paddle angle and has greater speed than other designs, making it easier to paddle.

The dual-hull design also provides greater safety and easy maintenance. The redundant design means that if one hull pops, there is still another to allow the rider to paddle to shore. The two hull layers are designed to be rugged. They can be repaired by replacing the inner bladder instead of patching. The inflatable catamaran has screw-in valves, rather than glued valves, making in-field replacement easier.

The Trekkayak prototype weighs 6.6 pounds. It packs down to a size of 19.7 inches x 13.8 inches and can be transported in a dry sack, which also serves as an inflation mechanism. When fully inflated, the Trekkayak measures 9.8 feet x 3 feet and can carry up to 485 pounds. The seat is large enough for one or two people, depending on their size and amount of gear.

The designers are working on modular features for their inflatable catamaran. They want riders to be able to substitute different seat fabrics for different purposes. For example, an ultralight fabric could save weight, a heavier fabric could be used in rougher waters, and a wider seat could carry more gear. The Trekkayak might also include a spray deck, a variety of hull sizes, and a motor mount. The hull and seat MOLLE webbing could be used for attaching gear and accessories.

Trekkayak is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to produce the inflatable catamarans. It expects to begin delivering them next April.

Fugu Inflatable Suitcase Makes Traveling Easy

fugu luggageMany travelers have packed a carry-on bag for a short trip, then found that they did not have enough space when heading home with gifts and souvenirs they purchased. Fugu Luggage has solved that problem with a suitcase that starts out the size of a standard carry-on and inflates to the size of a check-in suitcase.

The inflatable suitcase is named after the Fugu, the Japanese word for the puffer fish. Its accordion-style side walls enable it to expand from 21.5 in. x 13.5 in. x 9 in. with a 40-liter capacity to 27 in. high with a volume of 120 liters when fully inflated. It weighs 8.8 pounds, similar to the weight of an average-sized suitcase.

The Fugu can be inflated with an electric pump built into the suitcase, with an external pump, or by blowing into an external tube. The built-in pump can also be used to deflate vacuum bags and reduce the amount of space taken up by clothing.

The Fugu suitcase’s walls are made from drop stitch, a durable PVC material that is used in inflatable boats. The top and bottom of the Fugu suitcase are made from durable ABS plastic. The Fugu is waterproof and impact-resistant and has passed an altitude drop test.

The Fugu also contains removable shelves that allow it to serve as a storage unit and make it possible to live out of a suitcase without unpacking. When the suitcase is fully extended, it is high enough to be used as a makeshift table or laptop stand. It also has an optional laptop case that can be removed and has multi-directional omni wheels that enable it to be pulled easily in any direction.

Fugu Luggage was designed by Isaac Atlas with the help of Daniel Gindis and David Lifshitz. The team is based in Israel and received a grant from the Office of the Chief Scientist of Israel’s Ministry of Economy. They are currently raising funds on Kickstarter to produce the suitcases.