Development and Testing of a Space Suit Analogue for Neutral Buoyancy EVA Research 2002-01-2364
With NASA's resources dedicated to the six-fold increase in extravehicular operations required for the construction of International Space Station, there are few or no opportunities to conduct neutral buoyancy research which requires the use of pressure suits. For this reason, the University of Maryland Space Systems Laboratory has developed a system which replicates some limited aspects of pressure suits to facilitate neutral buoyancy research into EVA bioinstrumentation and EVA/robotic interactions. The MX-2 suit analogue is built around a hard upper torso with integrated hemispherical helmet and rear-entry hatch. Three-layer soft goods (pressure bladder, restraint layer, and thermal/micrometeoroid garment with integral ballast system) are used for the arms and lower torso. Designed for human use at 2 psid, the MX-2 provides (in a coarse sense) the outer envelope and joint restrictions of operational pressure suits, while providing realistic visual and audio environments and a “dry” interior for bioinstrumentation. This paper details the design, development and testing of the MX-2, and provides an overview of plans for Space Systems Laboratory research using the MX-2 in the University of Maryland Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility. Initial applications include correlation of MX-2 performance in EVA tasks from both neutral buoyancy and space flight, adaptation and integration of the SSL Joint Angle and Muscle Signature system to measure body joint motions and muscular fatigue, test of various approaches to EVA/robotic cooperation, and development of a virtual reality visual environment integrated into neutral buoyancy simulations.