MX-3: Design and Technology Development of an Advanced All-Soft High Mobility Planetary Space Suit

TitleMX-3: Design and Technology Development of an Advanced All-Soft High Mobility Planetary Space Suit
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsDi Capua, M., D. L. Akin, and J. C. Brannan
Conference NameAIAA International Conference on Environmental Systems
Date Published07/2010
Conference LocationBarcelona, Spain

A new generation of planetary EVA spacesuit will be key to meeting the ambitious mission goals of future manned space exploration. No current suit can provide the combination of mobility, versatility, and situational awareness that will be demanded of these new suits. It is thus vital that new technologies be brought to bear on the problem of the advanced planetary EVA suit. Academic institutions such as the University of Maryland’s Space Systems Laboratory (SSL) can play a critical role in the process of creating and exploring innovative concepts in suit design. MX-3 is the third in the SSL’s series of spacesuit analogues. A novel suit architecture has been developed, based on two-degree-of-freedom joints at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. MX-3 will be an all-soft suit, eliminating programming and allowing for natural motion, especially in the lower limbs. In this architecture, the need for most of the hard bearing rings of traditional suits has been reduced to just the ankles and wrists, allowing for a suit equally appropriate for planetary or microgravity EVA and for launch and entry. A detailed description of the suit architecture, joint design and manufacturing processes is included in this work, along with the results of initial performance testing on the various joint elements. This testing includes the production of torque-angle curves through the use of a custom-made test apparatus, dynamic torque, hysteresis analysis, and hydrostatic destructive testing. The torque-angle curves for the arm section are then compared to those of the current Shuttle EMU arm. This work will also discuss the importance of advanced control and display capabilities, and will include a detailed description of the design and manufacturing process of the MX-3 helmet. The helmet integrates an array of sensors for monitoring CO2 and O2 for safety and real-time metabolic workload measurements, and includes integrated Augmented and Virtual Reality, speech recognition, and voice communications. The helmet relies on independent embedded microcontrollers to handle the high computational workload involved in producing this level of capability. The MX-3 is set to become the SSL’s central research tool for investigations of suit mobility, advanced controls and displays, metabolic workload, and EVA simulation as a tool for design and training, with the aim of delivering innovative technologies and further enabling future manned planetary exploration. 

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