SmartSuit: Next Generation EVA Suit
The SmartSuit is a hybrid, intelligent, and highly mobile space suit for extravehicular activity (EVA) on a planetary surface. It will be comprised of a full body soft-robotic layer within a gas pressurized suit to maximize mobility by aiding in locomotion and lowering the required gas pressurization due to added mechanical counter pressure. The outside layer will be coated in a stretchable self-healing skin membrane in which transparent sensors have been integrated. The sensors will have the capability to display health and environmental data to assist the astronaut in their EVA.
Work on this suit is being done in collaboration with Professor Shepherd at Cornell University. The role of the Bioastronautics and Human Performance Lab is focusing on quantifying these improvements in mobility and dexterity. We use a range of techniques from software simulation to prototype testing on human subjects to measure mobility enhancement and the reduction of metabolic cost compared to modern day EVA suits. Operational impacts of these developing technologies are also examined and reviewed.
Extravehicular Activity (EVA) is a highly demanding activity during space missions. The current NASA spacesuit, the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), might be thought of as the ‘world’s smallest spacecraf’ and is quite an engineering achievement. However, the EMU has also led to discomfort and musculoskeletal injuries, mainly due to the lack of mobility in the pressurized suit that makes moving and operating within the suit challenging. We are developing a new musculoskeletal modeling framework in OpenSim to analyze human-spacesuit interaction and musculoskeletal performance during EVA.