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Space Suit - SilSuit Project

A design for a mechanical counterpressure space suit prototype. Open within the limits of US Export Control Law.

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We are developing a prototype mechanical counterpressure space suit. The aim of the design was to use the mechanical pressure design to make a suit that is lighter, smaller and more mobile than current gas-pressurized space suits. We completed Generation 1 of the suit and have developed Generation 2 based on what we learned. Generation 2 follows the example of prior research into mechanical counterpressure space suits. Such prior art has led to developments such as MIT's BioSuit ( http://mvl.mit.edu/EVA/biosuit/ ). The ultimate goal is to develop a design that allows the suit to provide mechanical pressure and permit full movement of the wearer.
Due to US Export Control Law on space suit technology, we are limited as to what we can publish. But we will publish what we can.
At this time, we have released the following publication: http://issyroo.org/SilsuitG2TechECSafe.pdf

History

Under the sponsorship of SpaceGAMBIT, the hackerspace space program, we developed an open-source prototype mechanical counterpressure space suit at Mojave Makers, Project SilSuit. The aim of the design was to use the mechanical pressure design to make a suit that is lighter, smaller and more mobile than current gas-pressurized space suits. We started in August 2013 and completed Generation 1 of the suit on February 2014. We started Generation 2 thereafter based on what we learned from Generation 1. We completed Generation 2's development as of December 2014 with partner, Issyroo Farms.

Robert McBrayer making molds of a subject's arm from which parts can be molded for the space suit sleeve.

Photo Credit Doug Messier of ParabolicArc.com

SpaceGAMBIT Generation 1 Project Page: http://www.spacegambit.org/silsuit/

Issyroo Farms Generation 2 Project Page: http://issyroo.org/?page_id=149


Concept

Generation 2 started following the example of MIT's BioSuit and using Lines of Non-Extension (LONEs) to develop a design that allows the suit to provide mechanical pressure and permit full movement of the wearer. LONEs are lines along the skin of the human body that do not change length over the body's full range of movement.

Diagram of Lines of Non-Extension (LONE) by Briner, 2011 for the development of an elastic-powered climbing exoskeleton.

As a mechanical pressure space suit is rigid by design to provide pressure, it can be quite restraining to the wearer. However, if the suit is made of a fabric biased with its rigid weave parallel to the LONEs, the user can have free movement as there are no rigid threads going against the body's natural motion and they can have the rigidity required to provide mechanical pressure.

As our research progressed, we found the source material for mechanical counterpressure space suit technology and used the new information gathered to further improve our design.

  • 1 × Fiberglass
  • 1 × Epoxy
  • 1 × Silicone Electronic Components / Misc. Electronic Components
  • 1 × Vacuum Oven
  • 1 × Fabric

  • SilSuit Generation 2 Development Complete!

    spacefelix12/31/2014 at 10:43 0 comments

    We recently completed the development of Generation 2 of SilSuit. Thanks to Issyroo Farms (issyroo.org), our development partner, we have succeeded. At this time, here is what we can publish about our development: http://issyroo.org/SilsuitG2TechECSafe.pdf

  • Project Is Now Partially Open

    spacefelix07/18/2014 at 21:11 2 comments

    Alright guys, my team and I did research on open-source and export control regulations.  Unfortunately, we have to make this project partially open instead of fully open-source due to US Export Control Laws* as they apply to space suit technology.  However, the project's development still continues.  We'll continue to post the updates that we can.  Thanks for following this project and to you all for your support.

    *All the notes on US Export Control Laws:

    US Export Control Law covers certain technologies under ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations, wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Traffic_in_Arms_Regulations, web: https://www.pmddtc.state.gov/regulations_laws/itar.html). The exact statement on this is listed in ITAR Part 121, Category X - Protective Personnel Equipment And Shelters, (4) Pressure suits capable of operating at altitudes above 55,000 feet sea level (ref). Our space suit is designed to operate in the vacuum of space and therefore falls under this regime.  We researched if we could continue under the Fundamental Research Exception for ITAR (link: https://research.missouri.edu/compliance/export_controls/exclusions). It will permit the publication of information (but not materials or technology) resulting from that research to foreign nationals and that such publications are not subject to export control restrictions.  
    This concludes that we can only allow a partial disclosure of information on this project.

  • Conceptual Design: Follow The Lines of Non-Extension

    spacefelix05/31/2014 at 14:30 1 comment

    We now have a design concept and are now working on its refinement by developing a mechanical pressure layer that consists of an active pressure layer restrained by a passive pressure layer. This follows off the results of MIT's BioSuit development.

    The active pressure layer will consist of fluid-inflated foam cells with pressures controlled individually or by the network of the cells' pressure sensors. The cells themselves will be arrayed in a pattern that follows the Lines Of Non-Extension (LONEs) to allow flexibility of movement.  MIT's BioSuit had success with using open-cell foam-filled pressure cells, hence we are following their design.  

    The main concept of the system is the use of an intelligent network with a microcontroller to handle action / reaction as well as the use of MEMS micro valve arrays housed in the cloth for actuation of the cells using pneumatics.  A video explains the valves.

    The passive pressure layer will be composed layers of 2-way and 4-way stretch fabrics accordingly biased to the LONEs to allow for movement and rigidity as needed.  Following off our current research into LONEs, we managed to start a map of LONEs on a subject's arm using a diagram of LONE's from a research paper.

     Diagram of Lines of Non-Extension (LONE) by Briner, 2011 for the development of an elastic-powered climbing exoskeleton.

    Ethan Chew with the start of a Lines of Non-Extension (LONEs) map drawn on his arm.

    From that map, we will have a guide to lay out, cut and stitch together fabric to make a quick test sleeve that can be worn on the subject to test basic mobility.

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spacefelix wrote 06/23/2014 at 20:28 point
Excellent and we do hope to have a chance to test. Our current focus for the connected portion is the active pressure layer; it is a series of fluid cells that can be individually pressurized to provide suit pressure. We will have a network of pressure sensors and controllers that will manage the pressure as the user moves and their body changes shape through the range of their movement.

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Adam Fabio wrote 06/22/2014 at 03:33 point
A space suit - entered in The Hackaday Prize to win a trip to space! Thanks for entering, hopefully you'll get a chance to test the suit out in person. Don't forget about the connected portion of the competition. A space suit will need some bio monitoring equipment - which could help you there.

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