Spacesuits of the future may resemble a streamlined second skin.
For future astronauts, the process of suiting up may go something like this: Instead of climbing into a conventional, bulky, gas-pressurized suit, an astronaut may don a lightweight, stretchy garment, lined with tiny, musclelike coils. She would then plug in to a spacecraft’s power supply, triggering the coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around her body.
The skintight, pressurized suit would not only support the astronaut, but would give her much more freedom to move during planetary exploration. To take the suit off, she would only have to apply modest force, returning the suit to its looser form.
Now MIT researchers are one step closer to engineering such an active, “second-skin” spacesuit: Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, and her colleagues have engineered active compression garments that incorporate small, springlike coils that contract in response to heat. The coils are made from a shape-memory alloy (SMA) — a type of material that “remembers” an engineered shape and, when bent or deformed, can spring back to this shape when heated.
The team incorporated the coils in a tourniquet-like cuff, and applied a current to generate heat. At a certain trigger temperature, the coils contract to their “remembered” form, such as a fully coiled spring, tightening the cuff in the process. In subsequent tests, the group found that the pressure produced by the coils equaled that required to fully support an astronaut in space.
“With conventional spacesuits, you’re essentially in a balloon of gas that’s providing you with the necessary one-third of an atmosphere [of pressure,] to keep you alive in the vacuum of space,” says Newman, who has worked for the past decade to design a form-fitting, flexible spacesuit of the future. “We want to achieve that same pressurization, but through mechanical counterpressure — applying the pressure directly to the skin, thus avoiding the gas pressure altogether. We combine passive elastics with active materials. … Ultimately, the big advantage is mobility, and a very lightweight suit for planetary exploration.”
The Latest on: Spacesuits
via Google News
The Latest on: Spacesuits
- What makes NASA spacesuits so expensive?on July 20, 2021 at 11:49 am
NASA's current fleet of spacesuits were built in 1974, and reportedly cost between $15 million and $22 million. Today, that would be worth about $150 million. Having not built any new mission ...
- What makes NASA spacesuits so expensive?on July 20, 2021 at 11:34 am
Having not delivered any new mission-ready extravehicular suits since then, NASA is running out of spacesuits. In fact, NASA are down to just four flight-ready EVA suits. Since 2009, NASA has ...
- Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos says crew will not wear spacesuits during historic launchon July 19, 2021 at 10:51 pm
The first Blue Origin crew will not wear spacesuits during their 11-minute journey to space and back Tuesday (July 20), according to billionaire founder and flight crew member Jeff Bezos.
- To boldly go, no more? Russian ISS cosmonauts may soon be prevented from leaving station as spacesuits approach end of warrantyon July 19, 2021 at 5:13 am
Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station may soon have to stop going on walks outside the craft, because the existing spacesuits are near the end of their working life, and no contract ...
- High-tech spacesuits on display at Kennedy Space Centeron July 19, 2021 at 2:21 am
The high-tech spacesuits worn by NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Douglas Hurley in last year’s launch will be a display for a limited time at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The suits will be ...
- What does it take to do a spacewalk? Skill, courage, and being able to wear a men’s size medium.on July 15, 2021 at 7:30 am
What does it take to don a spacesuit and venture out on such a technical and dangerous mission? Surprisingly, one of the main criteria (besides the years of astronaut training) is body size. EVA ...
- Kennedy Space Center puts high-tech spacesuits on displayon July 15, 2021 at 6:15 am
The latest exhibit at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex features high-tech spacesuits worn by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley. The spacesuits, which were worn during last year’s ...
- Spacesuits worn by Dragon crew to join historic displayon July 13, 2021 at 8:45 am
The suits worn by the two astronauts made history too. Now guests will be able to get a glimpse of the high-tech spacesuits as part of a special, limited-time exhibit at the. The suits, designed by ...
- NASA’s few remaining spacesuits are old, and they’re not a great fit for womenon July 11, 2021 at 4:15 pm
They’ve done it all while wearing spacesuits based on the design first developed for the Apollo missions in the 1960s. Each suit features a backpack that houses a primary life support system ...
via Bing News