The continuous development of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) spacesuit gloves has lead to an effective solution for performing EVA to date. Some aspects of the current EVA gloves have been noted to affect crew performance in the form of limited dexterity and accelerated onset of fatigue from high torque mobility joints. This in conjunction with the fact that more frequent and complex EVAs will occur with the fabrication and occupation of Space Station Freedom, suggest the need for improved spacesuit gloves. Therefore, several efforts have been conducted in the recent past to enhance the performance of the spacesuit glove. The following is a description of the work performed in these programs and their impact on the design and performance of EVA equipment.
In the late 1980's and early 1990's, a spacesuit glove design was developed that focused on building a more conformal glove with improved mobility joints that could function well at a higher operating pressure. This glove, the 57.2 KPa (8.3 psi) Phase IV, was considered to be a breakthrough in design by the astronaut evaluators and was later flight qualified as the 5000 Series glove assembly and flown on a STS-37 as a Detailed Test Objective (DTO) at 29.6 KPa (4.3 psi). The information gathered from this DTO was used to enhance existing 4000 Series glove designs as well as shape the advanced glove development efforts since.
Other programs have been conducted that have built upon the success of these efforts to improve the design of the advanced glove to bring it to its next state of evolution, the latest of which will be flown as a DTO experiment in 1997. These programs are the Laserscan and 57.2 KPa (8.3 psi) Phase V glove program. The Laserscan program developed a manufacturing process that incorporated the use of advanced technologies such as laser scanning, CAD modeling, rapid prototyping, computerized pattern development, and laser cutting to improve design accuracy and reduce development cost and schedule. The Phase V glove program focused on enhancing the 5000 Series glove by developing an improved wrist, TMG, carpometacarpal joint, and bladder to restraint interface.
Besides the evolutionary efforts that are ongoing, NASA has supported other innovative concepts as well. The power assisted spacesuit glove is now under development under a NASA National Research Announcement program. The goal of the effort is to develop a synergism between robotics and spacesuit technology to develop very low torque mobility joints. NASA is also pursuing the development and implementation of an active heating system for the spacesuit glove. This system will help combat the effects of cold environment exposure on the crew during EVA.