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Emergency Vacc Bubble

During a Classic traveller game I ran at Chattacon yesterday, I came up with an emergency vacc suit that was used on a shuttle-bus ferrying passengers around Glisten.

It looks like a little backpack, about 25 cm square, with a big red button on it. It has straps, but it can operate properly even if it is just held near enough to the user and in the right configuration.

When the button is depressed hard, the unit explodes and pulls itself together into a reinforced multilayer bubble of semirigid material strong enough to keep integrity in vacuum, and the interior fills with a diluted oxygen mix.

The suit carries enough air for only about 15-25 minutes of use, but it protects the wearer from the adverse effects of hard vacuum even after the air runs out.

On the back of the bubble, where the backpack unit actually was, is a small utility panel that includes a loop anchor for rescuers to catch the floating vacc bubble, and it also includes an air hose valve where an air tube can be connected from the outside in case the wearer has to stay in the bubble for longer than 25 minutes or so.

Activating a Vacc Bubble feels like getting hit by an auto's airbag.

There is a release mechanism on the back panel, but typically the Bubble just gets cut open, since it is non-reusable anyway.


Is this at all feasible?

I realize that getting a bubble to wrap around a person and seal itself off would be quite a feat of engineering, and we probably couldn't do it right now, but perhaps future engineers could work it out.

What would the TL need to be?
Also the back panel has air jets that can be used to maneuver the vacc bubble to a limited extent in space, assuming the person inside is conscious and such. It uses up the air supply, but if you need to move, you've got it.

And I was also thinking about some kind of collapsible mittens that extend when the bubble is inflated/activated, so that in what is certainly an emergency situation, the person inside can at least have some way to manipulate their environment.

Perhaps the waldo-mittens are only available in higher-TL models.
Classic Traveller has the Rescue Ball, of which this is the first cousin.

1. If the backpack includes some recirc/scrubbing, you can probably eke out far longer from the life-support. Classic rescue bubble manages more IIRC.

2. You can move by rolling.

3. If you had something like a self-collapsing rigid frame for the sphere, you could do something like this. Ever seen the collapsible polyhedral puzzles? They accordion open and shut. Put a membrane around them, and you can go from compact form to open sphere easily. Now, you'd still have to 'step into' it, but that could be quite fast. You would need minimum deployment space. The slightly rigid (it can be partially collapsed again, like the puzzles, to allow squeezing through narrow doors, etc) format would allow for easier rolling for movement too.

4. I think the wrap-around aspect is unlikely unless you like space opera. Just too easy to get fouled up.
A good idea. I don't think it's too space opera so long as you come up with a reasonable science/engineering way for this to work. Personally, I'd go with it just being a one-size-fits-all light-weight short-duration emergency space suit that is stored as a small pack. Here's some comments:

1. I wouldn't give someone the option of using up their air to be able to move. These sound like they're meant to be used by novices, who are likely to panic or be unable to make a reasoned assessment of the situation. You might get some experienced space hound cursing the lack of this feature, but 99% of the potential users (1) won't miss it and (2) might misuse it if given the option. Also, it increases the cost, thus lowering market penetration.

2. The air supply seems inadequate in that in most emergencies, it'll probably take longer than 20-30 minutes for rescue to arrive. From memory alone, I seem to recall TL15 air tanks as being very tiny. Also, you might want the default pack placement to be on the chest so that the air hose attachment is on the front so that the user can easily hook themself up to an air supply.

3. If you are going to stick with the "exploding" pack idea, remember that power loss is a distinct possibility in an emergency, so you've got these novices in zero-g. An airbag-force impact won't kill, but it'll send our novices flying all over the place in zero-g, and might prevent proper deployment. You probably want a deployment system that zeroes out the forces involved.
Ah, but given that I know virtually nothing about math or science, I post it here for more knowledgeable players than I to help me hammer it out.

As far as the air jet feature goes, how about if it ISN'T a feature of the product, but it's something that an experienced spacehand can fiddle with it and make it happen?
I agree with Zoomie. You wouldn't use air. You might well have an auxilliary thruster unit (doesn't need to give much of a push to get you moving really) as part of the pack. But you wouldn't use air. Just from a Systems Engineering point of view, it would introduce more complexity to the design and it would contain a risk of a failure venting all the air. That would be a bad thing. So you wouldn't design in such a way as to offer that potential.

Zoomie also makes a good point about deployment in zero G or zero power. I'd say it should come with some form of emergency illumination. Zero G is tougher. Maybe the wearer (if on ship or vehicle) wears the 'velcro slippers' just in case this happens.

Most starships in the OTU seem to start from the premise 'we're pretty darn safe' and safety gear is a real afterthought.
Wouldn't this work much like the snowsuit in "The World is Not Enough"? Except, of course, it would have to keep something in, rather than keep something out.

I would think it would work, if you used a belt mount, instead of a backpack. That way, it would already be wrapped around the wearer in one dimension. A monomlecular structure could be used to get that small/strong characteristic.

The real issue would be how to lift the person (assuming you don't lose grav) so that it would seal under their feet.
Oh yeah, if you use the belt-mount, the force used to get the thing out into a sphere would be effectively neutralized. (Up and down would be neutralized by each other.)
I still can't conceive of how you'd get under the guys feet. And what about the usual civilian flailing of arms? Wouldn't that disturb the process?

I just find I cannot imagine a safe, effective way to autodeploy the bubble.
Maybe the deployment is generally explosive enough to... oh, I don't know. Maybe it wouldn't work.

Tell me more about the rescue ball. Perhaps I'll just use that.
It was written up I think in a JTAS article. I'll have to dig around... maybe someone with the reprints has info? Essentially, it was very similar to your idea sans propulsion and explosive deployment. It was a collapsible ball that you could get into when decompression happened and it had an internal limited air supply.

There was a discussion about this in the technical section on this forum IIRC (or was it TML?). We decided it had to have polarizing features or if you were out in space with it (during a rescue), you could get badly sunburnt or baked with rads. So probably assume it has a silvery coating with some sort of polarizable window. Silver metallic would also make a good radar reflector. It probably also has an EPIRB-like beacon attached and maybe basic comms, along with a tow-harness that someone in BD or a vacc suit + manouver package can latch onto a string of them with.
Deployment around the feet is NOT a problem...

The device is neither a belt nor a back (or chest) pack... it's a pair of boots!

"Remember, just click your heels together 3 times, and the emergency survival bubble will be deployed..."
If it closes last around the feet, then you could give one of those briefings ("Remember, the nearest exit might be behind you...") to advise the person that, upon deployment, they would rock back and pull in their feet...
Allmost certainly the deployment indtructions would be "squat down, hug your knees and pull the trigger cable."

Limted maneuvering using gas jets, say compresssed nitrogen or the nitrox used to pressurize the ball makes sense. Any kind of grav belt/maneuver drive will cost big bucks.

I don't see how it will deploy to surround the person, though.
Originally posted by Zutroi:
"Remember, just click your heels together 3 times, and the emergency survival bubble will be deployed..."
Of course, you must recite the mantra

There's no place like home!
There's no place like home!
There's no place like home!

while doing that. And the boots are expensive because they are made of natural (or perhaps synthetic) ruby. And they look more like slippers.
Here is the write up for one that I used. I took different write ups and combined, deleted, folded, stapled, etc., until I got something that I liked.

Ball, Rescue: Standard on all military vessels and on most private ships as well. When folded, the rescue ball is a cylinder 5cm in diameter and 10 cm long. In the event of explosive decompression or other loss of air, a rescue ball deploys, forming a sphere one meter in diameter which contains air sufficient to last one person for two hours allowing an individual not in possession of a vacc suit to survive until help arrives. The ball will either auto-deploy if it senses a rapid pressure loss or the user can pull a lanyard to deploy it, then climbs inside and seals the zip closure. When activated, hollow ribs throughout the ball fill with air to give the ball its shape. The ball is made of a smart fabric which has a lot of characteristics of high-tech ballistic fabrics – it will not rip or tear easily when exposed to a sharp edge like some hatch combings or some broken metal if the ship took damage. The smart fabric is transparent with patches colored iridescent orange or yellow to make them easy to find visually and metal-coated for ease of location by radar. The smart fabric opaques when exposed to intense light or radiation, so as to protect the person inside. It contains a bottle of compressed air and a small first aid kit. There is an external fitting that mates either to a standard PLSS or ship-board life support connection to extend the duration. Snap ring anchor points allow rescue balls to be tied together or to a fixed point. Rescue balls provide some protection from stellar radiation and corrosive and insidious atmospheres for five to seven hours. Weight: 3kg Price: Cr175

Comments welcome.
Pretty good, after all. Is it a sphere, though? If it is, I wonder how wide your corridors are. And, your airlocks.

EDIT: I see it is only 1m in diameter. Wow, I know some guys (Chad Hennings for one) who would have trouble with that....
That's a great summary of everyone's contributions. May I use it in my games? And 1.5m might be better - crouching.. but not to bad for the 2.2m guys ;)