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K-State students developing prototype spacesuit powered by body heat

One thing an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) is great at is insulation. If an astronaut is generating body heat, it’s important that the EMU rejects it to keep the crew member comfortable. Just like a hybrid vehicle charges its battery when a car brakes, students at Kansas State University are developing a prototype suit that can monitor an astronaut’s vital signs by providing power to integrated electronic components by converting body heat into power. “The idea is that these sensors will report back to the space station via a wireless network, helping keep astronauts healthy on space missions and tracking data long term.”

K-State students developing system to use astronaut body heat to power electronics

Read the full article by Robin Burks on Dvice.com.

Neutral Buoyancy Lab featured in “Swimming with Spacemen” article

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How does NASA train it’s astronauts for spacewalks on the International Space Station? Mainly, in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. The question often comes up, and this week it was coming from TheChive.com asking “does NASA really need the largest indoor body of water in the world to help train our astronauts?”

Author Lee Hutchinson details a day in the life at the NBL, and provides a unique behind-the-scenes look into all the work that goes into making a successful training event happen. From SCUBA divers to crane technicians to the astronauts themselves, this article is a must-read!

Click to read “Swimming with Spacemen: training for spacewalks at NASA’s giant pool” by Lee Hutchinson

NASA’s Advanced Spacesuit Headlines MythBusters’ Blog

Headlining Jamie & Adam (hosts of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters) Tested.com‘s science blog yesterday was a fun article about NASA’s Z-1 spacesuit, and it’s striking resemblance to Buzz Lightyear.

Richard Rhodes NASA Z-1 Spacesuit

NASA’s Spacesuit Engineer Richard Rhodes demonstrates the mobility of the Z-1 spacesuit.

As noted in the artice, NASA doesn’t know where the Z-Series suit will be going, so it is designed with flexibily (in mission and mobility) including a suitport interface to reduce egress/ingress time and difficulties associated with an airlock.

Despite being named one of Times’ best inventions of the year, Z-1 is just a prototype that NASA will be building on with Z-2 and Z-3 revisions. NASA recently finished testing the suit, which means work on the Z-2 can’t be far off.

We look forward to more information on Z-2, and as it becomes publicly available, we’ll share more.

Spacesuit Glove Designers turn to Kickstarter to fund commercial suit

The FFD 3G Suits are designed as a safety backup in case of an emergency loss of cabin pressure during a commercial spaceflight.

If you’ve been following the spacesuit industry long enough, you may have heard the names Ted Southern (formerly the designer of Victoria’s Secret angel wings) and Nikolay Moiseev – they began as competitors in the inaugural Astronaut Glove Challenge sponsored by NASA and ended up as business partners at Final Frontier Design.

Depending on your Kickstarter pledge amount, FFD will reward you items such as a patch, t-shirt, valsalva device, comm. cap, anti-G pants, helmet, glove, or even a complete space suit!

NASA astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger talks undersea ‘spacewalks’ at NEEMO 16

Update: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will speak with astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, commander of the 16th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission, and her fellow crewmate Timothy Peake of the European Space Agency at 3:10 p.m. CDT today, June 20, as they perform their final “spacewalk” of the mission, 63 feet below the ocean’s surface.

NASA astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, STS-131 Mission Specialist and Educator Astronaut can add a new title to her NASA career: NEEMO 16 Commander.

On June 11, Metcalf-Lindenburger joined ESA Astronaut Tim Peake and JAXA Astronaut Kimiya Yui along with others to the bottom of the sea to simulate deep-space exploration activities in the 16th expedition of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO).

In this video, Metcalf-Lindenburger talked to SPACE.com while outside Aquarius, on a simulated spacewalk.

Read the rest of the SPACE.com article here.

High School Students Propose New Spacewalking Undergarments

The Infinity team from West Salem H.S. (OR) includes (from bottom left clockwise) Meera Petroff, Madison Jones, Grace Hannon and Elliott Lownsbery.
Credit: Madison Jones, Conrad Foundation

U.S. high school students recently won $5,000 at the Spirit of Innovation Challenge hosted by the Conrad Foundation at the NASA Ames Research Center in California from March 29 to March 31. The team’s “Infinity Suit” proposed to make spacesuit undergarments using materials that can absorb heat without changing temperature, according to a recent Innovation News Daily article.

“If you stitch phase-changing crystals into clothing, you could also design phase-changing crystals to only change at a certain temperature,” said Michael Lampert, a physics teacher at West Salem High School and coach of the “Infinity” student team. “You could go on a spacewalk and not have the problem of carrying a liquid-cooled ventilation system.”

Infinity’s idea came from founding member Grace Hannon, a student who was inspired by the thought of making better blankets for hospital patients. She ended up calling Barbara Morgan, a teacher and former U.S. astronaut.

This technology has many advantages over the current Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment (LCVG) which uses water as a non-recoverable consumable and once wetted (filled with water), required maintenance every 90 days!

GM, NASA Jointly Developing Robotic Gloves for Human Use

In this article on GM’s media website, they tout a new robotic technology, developed using some of the same principals of Robonaut 2, “that auto workers and astronauts can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries.”

While the GM article continues on about the many benefits to reducing the amount of force required during a spacewalk, they completely miss the boat on the use of this technology in space. While the article outlines how this glove can improve safety and productivity on the shop floor in an auto industry, this would not be the case on a spacewalk.

Since NASA entered into the spacewalking business in 1965, engineers have wrestled with the trade-off of increasing safety margins by bulking up the spacesuit, and providing the astronaut mobility and tactility while working. The glove is the most vulnerable part of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (or “E-M-U” NASA’s spacesuit since 1982), because it has to be to allow the astronaut the tactility and mobility to work productively and in a timely manner.

While GM has a great technology to improve the automotive industry, in this case it doesn’t correlate to improving a spacewalk.

In my opinion, combining this technology with integrated haptic vibro feedback and Halting State style air-writing accelerometer capability might be an interesting solution.