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Game Changing Development

Next Generation Life Support (NGLS): High Performance EVA Glove Technology Development (HPEG)

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

First suited testing of the sensor gloves.  Laboratory testing of the sensor gloves provided feedback on the test subject?s mobility and comfort using the gloves and allows for a preliminary assessment of sensor performance prior to operational use.

The overall objective is to develop advanced gloves for extra vehicular activity (EVA) for future human space exploration missions and generate corresponding standards by which progress may be quantitatively assessed.  The glove prototypes that result from the successful completion of this technology development activity will be delivered to NASA's Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) and ultimately to be included in an integrated test with the next generation spacesuit currently under development.

Requirements for EVA for exploration missions will significantly differ from the International Space Station (ISS).  Whereas the ISS external environment is relatively pristine, dust and other foreign debris on all exploration missions can easily migrate through protective glove outer layers creating a high potential for loss of hardware and an increased risk to crew.  Furthermore, EVA frequency on ISS is less than 24 hours per quarter, whereas for exploration missions we anticipate the frequency as high as 24 hrs of EVA per week. Given the availability of regular resupply to ISS, durability becomes less of a concern because gloves can be replaced after 7 EVAs.  However, resupply is not an option for long duration exploration missions and the necessary spares to keep the same paradigm is prohibitive from a launch mass perspective (~6.25 lbs per pair).

The state-of-the-art (SOA) gloves used on the ISS space suit are an aging technology.  These gloves, identified as "Phase VI gloves", have been modified in minor ways in response to specific failures during the 18 years since their first deployment. More radical updates have not been made due to the high cost of larger scale changes.  For example, in the early 2000s, there were several instances of glove damage with cuts completely through the protective outer layers of the palm.  The response was to add thick cut-resistant materials to the thumb and palm regions. This change resolved the cut glove issue but the glove was noticeably more difficult to flex.  In keeping with the trend to only make minor changes, the response to hand injury has been to order more custom glove sizes for EVA crew members, rather than to make radical changes to improve flexibility.  Even with 61 sizes of gloves in inventory, with finger adjustments of 0.5 in for each finger, new custom gloves are being fabricated at an average of 2 per year to meet crew needs and yet injuries still occur regularly to crew in training and on orbit.

The HPEG Project Element believes the issues of mobility, fit, and durability must be addressed in a systemic manner that incorporates new technologies and manufacturing techniques to meet the performance challenges of exploration missions.  Specific quantitative objectives for high performance EVA gloves include:

  1. Enable hand mobility comparable to 60% of bare handed capability when wearing the complete glove assembly pressurized to 4.3 psid.
  2. Maintain structural integrity after completion of cycle testing in non-pristine environment for the equivalent of 50 EVAs.
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