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Journal Article

Incorporating Advanced Controls, Displays and other Smart Elements into Space Suit Design

The MX-2 neutral buoyancy space suit analogue has been designed and developed at the University of Maryland to facilitate analysis of space suit components and assessment of the benefits of advanced space suit technologies, The MX-2 replicates the salient features of microgravity pressure suits, including the induced joint torques, visual, auditory and thermal environments, and microgravity through the use of neutral buoyancy simulation. In this paper, design upgrades and recent operations of the suit are outlined, including many experiments and tests of advanced space suit technologies, This paper focuses on the work done using the MX-2 to implement and investigate various advanced controls and displays within the suit, to enhance crewmember situational awareness and effectiveness, and enable human-robotic interaction.
Technical Paper

Kinematic Analysis of a Robotically Augmented Pressure Suit for Planetary Exploration

The next generation of pressure suits must enable large-scale planetary Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVA). Astronauts exploring the moon and Mars will be required to walk many kilometers, carry large loads, perform intricate experiments, and extract geological samples. Advanced pressure suit architectures must be developed to allow astronauts to perform these and other tasks simply and effectively. The research developed here demonstrates integration of robotics technology into pressure suit design. The concept of a robotically augmented pressure suit for planetary exploration has been developed through the use of analytical and experimental investigations. Two unique torso configurations are examined, including a Soft/Hard Upper Torso with individually adjustable bearings, as well as advances in Morphing Upper Torso research, in which an all-soft torso is analyzed as a system of interconnected parallel manipulators.
Technical Paper

Investigation of a Cable-Driven Parallel Mechanism for Pressure Suit Arm Resizing and Motion Assistance

The fit of a spacesuit has been identified as a crucial factor that will determine its usability. Therefore, because one-size-fits-all spacesuits seldom fit any wearer well, and because individually tailored spacesuits are costly, the University of Maryland has conducted research into a resizable Extravehicular Activity (EVA) suit. This resizing is accomplished through a series of cable-driven parallel manipulators, which are used to adjust the distance between plates and rings built into a soft space suit. These actuators, as well as enabling passive suit resizing, could be used to actively assist the astronaut's motion, decreasing the torques that must be applied for movement in a pressurized suit. This paper details the development and testing of an arm prototype, which is used to better understand the dynamics of a more complex torso-limb system.
Technical Paper

Morphing Upper Torso: A Novel Concept in EVA Suit Design

The University of Maryland Space Systems Laboratory and ILC Dover LP have developed a novel concept: a soft pressure garment that can be dynamically reconfigured to tailor its shape properties to the wearer and the desired task set. This underlying concept has been applied to the upper torso of a rear entry suit, in which the helmet ring, waist ring and two shoulder rings make up a system of four interconnected parallel manipulators with tensile links. This configuration allows the dynamic control of both the position and orientation of each of the four rings, enabling modification of critical sizing dimensions such as the inter-scye distance, as well as task-specific orientations such as helmet, scye and waist bearing angles. Half-scale and full-scale experimental models as well as an analytical inverse kinematics model were used to examine the interconnectedness of the plates, the role of external forces generated by pressurized fabric, and the controllability of the system.
Technical Paper

System Overview and Operations of the MX-2 Neutral Buoyancy Space Suit Analogue

A fully operational space suit analogue for use in a neutral buoyancy environment has been developed and tested by the University of Maryland’s Space Systems Laboratory. Repeated manned operations in the Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility have shown the MX-2 suit analogue to be a realistic simulation of operational EVA pressure suits. The suit is routinely used for EVA simulation, providing reasonable joint restrictions, work envelopes, and visual and audio environments comparable to those of current EVA suits. Improved gloves and boots, communications carrier assembly, in-suit drink bag and harness system have furthered the semblance to EVA. Advanced resizing and ballasting systems have enabled subjects ranging in height from 5′8″ to 6′3″ and within a range of 120 lbs to obtain experience in the suit. Furthermore, integral suit instrumentation facilitates monitoring and collection of critical data on both the suit and the subject.
Technical Paper

Development and Testing Update on the MX-2 Neutral Buoyancy Space Suit Analogue

The University of Maryland Space Systems Laboratory has developed a system that replicates some limited aspects of pressure suits to facilitate neutral buoyancy research into EVA bioinstrumentation, advanced EVA training, and EVA/robotic interactions. After a two year upgrade from its MX-1 predecessor, the MX-2 space suit analogue is currently undergoing a variety of system integration tests in preparation for initial operational testing, leading to routine use for EVA simulation and as a testbed for advanced space suit technology. The MX-2 is built around a hard upper torso with integrated hemispherical helmet and rear-entry hatch. Three-layer soft-goods are used for the arms and lower torso, while an open loop air system regulates suit pressure to 3 psid. Wrist disconnects allow the use of standard EMU or Orlan gloves, or experimental gloves such as the mechanical counterpressure gloves and power-assisted gloves developed previously by the SSL.
Technical Paper

Neutral Buoyancy Technologies for Extended Performance Testing of Advanced Space Suits

Performance of new space suit designs is typically tested quantitatively in laboratory tests, at both the component and integrated systems levels. As the suit moves into neutral buoyancy testing, it is evaluated qualitatively by experienced subjects, and used to perform tasks with known times in earlier generation suits. This paper details the equipment design and test methodology for extended space suit performance metrics which might be achieved by appropriate instrumentation during operational testing. This paper presents a candidate taxonomy of testing categories applicable to EVA systems, such as reach, mobility, workload, and so forth. In each category, useful technologies are identified which will enable the necessary measurements to be made. In the subsequent section, each of these technologies are examined for feasibility, including examples of existing technologies where available.
Technical Paper

Evaluation of a Hybrid Elastic EVA Glove

The hybrid elastic design is based upon an American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) glove designed by at the Space Systems Laboratory (SSL) in 1985. This design uses an elastic restraint layer instead of convolute joints to achieve greater dexterity and mobility during EVA (extravehicular activity). Two pilot studies and a main study were conducted using the hybrid elastic glove and a 4000-series EMU (extravehicular activity unit) glove. Data on dexterity performance, joint range of motion, grip strength and perceived exertion was assessed for the EMU and hybrid elastic gloves with correlations to a barehanded condition. During this study, 30 test subjects performed multiple test sessions using a hybrid elastic glove and a 4000-series shuttle glove in a 4.3psid pressure environment. Test results to date indicate that the hybrid elastic glove performance is approximately similar to the performance of the 4000-series glove.
Technical Paper

Development and Testing of a Space Suit Analogue for Neutral Buoyancy EVA Research

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.