Life in space adversely affects astronauts’ physical condition through physiological changes like fluid shift, muscle loss or bone degradation. This is especially the case for long-term space flights. Countermeasures must therefore be performed daily throughout a mission.
By doing so, valuable crew time is used up which could otherwise be used for scientific experiments and increasingly important station maintenance tasks. The purpose of the DYNASUIT project is to define the detailed requirements and concepts needed to propose and verify the design for an intelligent intra-vehicular countermeasure suit comprised of artificial muscles and biofeedback systems.
Countermeasures in space
To reduce the deleterious effects of microgravity on the human body by imposing a gravitational loading effect during everyday activities, special garments for astronauts have been developed, or are under development, such as the Russian penguin suit and the European Gravity Loading Countermeasure Skinsuit (GLCS). To date the effects of such garments have not been accurately proven or quantified and in some cases the suit has proven uncomfortable and unhygienic.An intelligent suit containing biofeedback measurement capabilities and the ability to accommodate different sensing, reporting and countermeasure subsystems (e.g. an intelligent muscle constraint system or a medical warning system) offers the potential to support astronaut operational activities through counteracting the effects of weightlessness. Furthermore, an intelligent garment of this nature will offer the opportunity to scientifically evaluate the effects of its systems on crew health in the microgravity environment.
DYNASUIT: towards smart wearable countermeasures
However, before developing a complete suit, a study is needed to identify the state of the art and to define requirements for the suit, the integral biofeedback systems and the foremost subsystem, the artificial muscles integrated into the intelligent suit (e.g. electro-active polymers or advanced pneumatic actuators). A consortium led by Space Applications Services (B), is undertaking the DYNASUIT project to meet these objectives.Sponsored by ESA’s General Studies Programme (GSP), the project has been recently kicked-off.