NASA SBIR 2009 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 09-2 X11.02-9753
PROPOSAL TITLE: Space Suit Simulator (S3) for Partial Gravity EVA Experimentation and Training

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation
9950 Wakeman Drive
Manassas, VA 20110 - 2702
(703) 396-6329

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Jessica Duda
1 Broadway, 12th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142 - 1189
(617) 500-0552

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Pressurized space suits impose high joint torques on the wearer, reducing mobility for upper and lower body motions. Using actual space suits in training or experimentation is problematic due to the expense, bulk, weight, and difficulty in donning/doffing. The goal of this project was to demonstrate a novel method for simulating space suit joint torques, which are non-linear and vary with angular position. We designed a knee joint simulator using McKibben actuators with active control (also known as artificial muscles), which are cylindrical pneumatic actuators constructed of flexible rubber with an inextensible weave that causes the cylinder to contract longitudinally when pressurized. A commercial knee brace was used as an exoskeleton to mount the actuators. One actuator was mounted anterior to the knee to provide resistance to flexion, and a second actuator was mounted posterior to the knee to provide resistance to extension. The active controller read angle input from a potentiometer mounted to the brace and output the appropriate pressures for each actuator to provide the needed torque. The knee joint was installed on MIT's Robotic Space Suit Tester (RSST), a full-sized anthropometric robot equipped with torque and angle sensors on each of the joints. Results from testing indicated that the torque vs. angle relationship achieved using the actively controlled spacesuit joint simulator was qualitatively similar to the non-linear trend observed in prior testing of the EMU on the RSST. We conclude that the use of these actuators potentially results in higher fidelity than passive actuation.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The primary customer for this device will be NASA. The timing of this Phase 2 effort is important to facilitate planned microgravity and lunar and martian surface EVA research and training in support of NASA's current vision for future exploration missions. Development of surface operations activities on the moon or Mars will benefit from the support of human testing and training; e.g. what is the metabolic cost of performing specific tasks in partial gravity while wearing a space suit? Additionally, experimentation in support of development of the future moon/Mars EVA space suit will require human testing; our adjustable space suit simulator joint torques will allow for characterization of various suit configurations in order to optimize the future suit design. We anticipate that EVA S3 systems will be used to support training and simulation activities at multiple centers including JSC, GRC, and ARC, and that this market will require initial production of 10 to 15 systems.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Joint torque devices such as those developed during this program are useful in medical technologies as orthopedic devices: either restricting motion in order to prevent injury, or providing resistance to motion in order to improve muscle function or promote bone growth. For example, a controlled resistance suit could be used as an exercise device (e.g. performing squats with a controlled resistance suit rather than with weights) or individual components of the EVA S3 design could be used separately for rehabilitation of specific joints. Alternately the control scheme can be changed to provide performance augmentation to the wearer. To support these various markets, the EVA S3 technology is adjustable to accommodate individuals of different heights and weights, is rugged, portable, has low power requirements and is compatible with under water operations.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.)

Form Generated on 08-06-10 17:29