Novel Robotic Joints May Help To Create More Comfortable Space Suits

Jul, 2022 - By SMI

Novel Robotic Joints May Help To Create More Comfortable Space Suits

Scientists are developing robotic joints to enhance current gas-pressurized space suits increasing accommodation of the suits for astronauts exploring planetary surfaces

Spacesuits that are currently in use are cumbersome and expensive, and the extravehicular activity of these suits can be improved using robotic actuators. Now engineers at Texas A&M developed soft robotic technology that one could mate SmartSuit space suits for exploration of planets with more safety, comfort, and energy efficiency for astronauts.

Currently astronauts can select from two types of space suit, one is an overvalued flight suits designed for protecting the crew from accidental depressurization when the space craft is lifting off and during the reentry. The other suit is Russian and American full-pressure suits that are used during ExtraVehicular Activities (EVAs) that remained the same ever since. In new emergency suits developed by SpaceX and Boeing, the joints of the suits are developed from a series of constant volume bellows. However, these joints can be uncomfortable. According to the researchers at Texas A&M, replacing these bellows with soft robotic actuators can make bending in these spacesuits much easier and maintain the joint’s desired position while allowing the suit to be more comfortable.

The team is currently working on developing a prototype robotic knee and also modeling it against a naked body and the mobility of a normal suit. The team found that the actuators could help save enormous number of calories used during a Mars mission allowing astronauts to work with minimum sweating. The team plans to eventually integrate the soft robotic actuators in a full-body self-healing suit consisting sensors. This suit is likely to offer additional mechanical counterpressure (MCP), which will make the suit capable of functioning with air pressure measuring quarter of a traditional suit. This is expected to make the suit more comfortable and decrease the risk of decompression sickness.

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