NASA is developing the next generation of spacesuits for future missions including the optimization of spacesuit gloves that, when coupled to a pressurized suit, tend to limit the range of motion of an astronaut’s hand to as little as 20%. Many of NASA’s future missions will be in challenging environments where hand dexterity of the astronaut will be critical for the success of the missions.
NASA innovators have developed several features to reduce hand exertion when an astronaut is wearing spacesuit gloves. Some of the major components include improved actuators, sensors for assisting with the positioning in the hand during grasping, and the new, low-maintenance Triple Brummel Anchor. These components were developed to create interactive robotic gloves that increase hand strength and dexterity.
Spacesuit gloves with grasping and restorative capabilities were developed to increase both strength and mobility. New capabilities include components that can be integrated into existing grasping gloves to enhance operation and range of motion. In particular, actuators were designed to have a greater force output, better efficiency, higher reliability, and thermal range than commercially available actuators. Also, position sensors were added to improve the accuracy of the grasping motion and a built-in restorative force to assist movement back into a relaxed, non-grasping position.
The Triple Brummel Anchor was designed to improve the interaction between the actuator and a human’s finger to prevent cinching and avoid high-stress concentrations in the line of the tendon used to maneuver the wearer’s hand while performing tasks. The Triple Brummel Anchor can be integrated outside the glove and requires no special tools. Industries such as manufacturing and healthcare can benefit by the application of these components.