There is a need for an improvement over current NASA Extravehicular Activity (EVA) technology. The technology must allow the capacity for quicker, more efficient egress/ingress, allow for “shirtsleeve” suit maintenance, be compact in transport, and be applicable to environments ranging from planetary surface (partial-g) to orbital or deep space zero-g environments. The technology must also be resistant to dust and other foreign contaminants that may be present on or around a planetary surface. The technology should be portable, and be capable of docking with a variety of habitats, ports, stations, vehicles, and other pressurized modules.

The Dual-Compartment Inflatable Suitlock (DCIS) consists of three hard inline bulkheads, separating two cylindrical membrane-walled compartments. The Inner Bulkhead can be fitted with a variety of hatch types, docking flanges, and mating hardware, such as the Common Berthing Mechanism (CBM), for the purpose of mating with vehicles, habitats, and other pressurized modules. The Inner Bulkhead and Center Bulkhead function as the end walls of the Inner Compartment, which during operations, would stay pressurized, either matching the pressure of the habitat or acting as a lower-pressure transitional volume.

The Inner Compartment contains donning/doffing fixtures and inner suitport hatches. The Center Bulkhead has two integrated suitports along with a maintenance hatch. The Center Bulkhead and Outer Bulkhead function as the end walls of the Outer Compartment, which stays at vacuum during normal operations. This allows the crewmember to quickly don a suit, and egress the suitlock without waiting for the Outer Compartment to depressurize. The Outer Compartment can be pressurized infrequently for both nominal and off-nominal suit maintenance tasks, allowing shirtsleeve inspections and maintenance/repair of the environmental suits. The Outer Bulkhead has a pressure-assisted hatch door that stays open and stowed during EVA opera tions, but can be closed for environmental protection of the suits, suit maintenance, and pressurization.

This work was done by Kriss J. Kennedy, Peggy L. Guirgis, Robert M. Boyle of Johnson Space Center, and A. Scott Howe of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. MSC-24914-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2013 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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