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.
Compared to current EVA suits, the SmartSuit will improve EVA missions on several fronts. The mobility of the astronaut if vastly improved by the actuation provided by the soft robotics and added mechanical counter pressure. The sensors embedded in the self-healing membrane will lead to an increase in reparability, reusability, and safety of the SmartSuit. There will also be an overall drop in EVA duration due to a reduced pre-breathing times and enhanced dexterity.
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.
This research is being funded by the NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) program.