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Technical Paper

Characterization of Structural, Volume and Pressure Components to Space Suit Joint Rigidity

Gas-pressurized space suits are highly resistive to astronaut movement, and this resistance has been previously explained by volume and/or structural effects. This study proposed that an additional effect, pressure effects due to compressing/expanding the internal gas during joint articulation, also inhibits mobility. EMU elbow torque components were quantified through hypobaric testing. Structural effects dominated at low joint angles, and volume effects were found to be the primary torque component at higher angles. Pressure effects were found to be significant only at high joint angles (increased flexion), contributing up to 8.8% of the total torque. These effects are predicted to increase for larger, multi-axis joints. An active regulator system was developed to mitigate pressure effects, and was found to be capable of mitigating repeated pressure spikes caused by volume changes.