As part of the Advanced Extravehicular Activity program, the NASA Glenn Research Center is responsible for communications, avionics, and informatics (CAI) subsystems for next-generation exploration spacesuits. Part of this effort involves testing operational concepts at the Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) field outings. Desert RATS is a partnership of several NASA centers and outside industry involved in developing technologies applicable to the manned exploration of a planetary surface (the Moon and Mars). Individual teams work throughout the year on promising new technologies, which are candidates for demonstration at the outing.
Two spacesuits being tested in conjunction with the SCOUT rover.
The Desert RATS field outing is an opportunity to evaluate various concept technologies in a location selected to closely mimic characteristics of the Moon and Mars surface. The field outing is a laboratory for learning how to live and work during a human and robotic surface exploration mission. This yearís exercise took place in a highly remote desert area near Meteor Crater, Arizona. The site was chosen for its terrain, lack of vegetation, and powdery soil. Held in September 2005, this yearís outing involved integrated communications and data systems for two spacesuited subjects as well as interaction with the NASA Johnson Space Center Science Crew Operations and Utility Testbed (SCOUT) rover (see the preceding photograph). Approximately 120 individuals (9 from Glenn) participated at the test site.
Right: Glenn engineers and contractors deploying a surface proximity networking relay station.
Glenn developed the voice- and data-communications systems for the field outings. The communications system included both proximity voice and data networking (see the preceding photograph) among surface assets. It also included satellite communications (see the following photograph on the left) to the Exploration Planning Operations Center located at Johnson Mission Control. In addition, Glenn developed two CAI packs, which provided the communications, avionics, and informatics subsystems for each spacesuit (see the following photograph on the right). These packs mount on the back of the portable life-support system and house the computer, radios, and other scientific instrumentation for the suit. The computer system in the CAI pack allowed the demonstration of advanced informatics software concepts. The NASA Ames Research Center worked in collaboration with Glenn to provide prototype software including voice recognition and productivity software integrated with helmet-mounted displays. Glenn also developed an audio subsystem to evaluate concept helmet-mounted audio interfaces. Digital signal processing techniques were used to clean up the audio from the suited subjects to make their vocalizations more intelligible. This research was funded by the Human Systems Research and Technology Program of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.
Glenn communications engineer Michael Cauley checking out the satellite communications terminal.
Two CAI packs mounted on each of the advance spacesuits during dry run testing at Johnson.
Find out more about how Glennís support of Desert RATS benefits space exploration: http://exploration.grc.nasa.gov/Exploration/outreach_articles/articles/Article-DRATS.html
David Andrew Carek, 216-433-8396, David.A.Carek@nasa.gov; Michael A. Cauley, 216-433-3483, Michael.A.Cauley@nasa.gov; and Alan N. Downey, 216-433-3508, Alan.N.Downey@nasa.gov
Authors: David Andrew Carek and Michael A. Cauley
Headquarters program office: HSRT
Programs/Projects: Exploration Systems
Last updated: October 17, 2006
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