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.
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.
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.
Even though astronauts won’t be going to another planet, moon, or asteroid anytime soon, engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are hard at work developing the next generation of surface EVA spacesuits. Here, engineer Amy Ross discusses some of the latest testing and technology in a two-part interview:
Today, Increment 30 Commander Dan Burbank shared the first-ever handshake in space between a human and a humanoid robot, known as Robonaut.
Today on ISS, Robonaut consists of a head, upper torso, arms, and hands and is only capable of performing activities inside the vehicle (known as “IV” to the spacewalk community). Future plans include outfitting Robonaut with a leg-type structure and giving it capabilities to work on the exterior of ISS.
Currently, astronauts doing a spacewalk spend a large amount of time with worksite setup and hardware transfer. With the help of Robonaut, a larger portion of the limited time an astronaut spends doing a spacewalk can be focused on the specific tasks at-hand.
“According to Barron’s Richard Adams, the plan would be to build “a small vibrating element” into spacesuit gloves “to create a surrogate for the tactile sense lost behind the insulating and protective layers”.
“Combined with a projection display on the helmet visor, this might allow a suited-up space ace to type away on a virtual keyboard hanging in the air in front of him or her – and feel the keystrokes.”
This technology would be easily applicable on Earth. “It just might be that we’ll all find ourselves in future pulling on a set of air-typing gloves and flipping down our vid-specs rather than sitting down and balancing our laptops on our knees or fondling away at our tablets.”
According to an article on Gizmodo.com, engineers in the Human Factors Division of NASA Ames have a patent pending on an ingenious idea that will help astronauts read digital displays during periods of vibration for “five bucks.”
“During the final stages of a launch… the entire vehicle oscillates rapidly. Add that oscillation to the resonant frequency of the large tube that separates the booster and the crew cabin, and you get a crew capsule that vibrates like crazy. When humans are vibrating to that extent, it’s impossible for them to read a digital display. If the astronauts can’t read, they can’t do their jobs. If they can’t do their jobs, no more mission.
“And then the people in the Vibration Lab had a really, really good idea: By simply strobing the display in time with the vibration, they could kill this problem altogether.
“NASA has a patent pending on the technology, although the problems it solves are decidedly not NASA-specific; helicopters, planes, and fast-moving boats have similar vibrational issues, so it’s very possible we’ll see this implemented elsewhere.”