An Unpowered Exoskeleton to Reduce Astronaut Hand Fatigue during Microgravity EVA

by Carey, Alan John, M.S., UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS, 2016, 164 pages; 10165880


Astronaut hand fatigue during Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and EVA training is a critical risk in human space exploration. Improved glove designs over the past forty years have reduced hand fatigue, but limitations of the technology prevent major improvements to reduce hand fatigue. Therefore, a mechanism to assist astronauts by reducing hand fatigue was explored. Many organizations have already developed exoskeletons to assist astronauts, but all mechanisms developed required electrically powered actuators and control systems to enhance grip strength. However, astronauts already possess the strength required to actuate the glove; what is needed is a method to reduce fatigue without introducing electromechanical complexity. A passive mechanical system was developed as a proof-of-concept to test the feasibility of an unpowered exoskeleton to maintain static grip around an object. The semi- rigid nature of an inflated pressure glove provided an ideal substrate to mount a mechanism and associated components to allow an astronaut to release his/her grip inside the glove while maintaining attitude, as the mechanism will keep the glove closed around an object.

Three prototypes were fabricated and tested to evaluate the architecture. The final two prototypes were tested on a real pressure suit glove at Final Frontier Design (FFD), and the third mechanism demonstrated attachment and basic operating principles. At University of California (UC) Davis, pressure glove analogs were fabricated from a baseball batting glove and polystyrene to simulate a real pressure glove without the risk of testing in a reduced pressure environment (i.e. a glove box). Testing of the third prototype showed a reduction in fatigue as measured by Maximum Voluntary Contraction (MVC) grip force over a 30 second period when the mechanism assisted gripping an object.

AdviserStephen K. Robinson
Source TypeThesis
SubjectsAerospace engineering; Mechanical engineering; Robotics
Publication Number10165880

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