NASA Space Apps

The Space Sleeve was created for the NASA Space Apps Challenge, April 22-24, 2016. The original post can be found here:

This project received an honourable mention for the 2016 NASA Space Apps Challenge.

The Space Sleeve

The Space Sleeve is a stylish exoskeleton that takes the place of an astronaut’s forearm section of their space suit. It will be used during missions in space/spacewalks, providing all the information necessary for the user to monitor their own suit and health conditions while completing the mission objectives with their teammates.

Physical Description

The exoskeleton is comprised of two 3-D printed rings with a diameter of 5”, one around the upper forearm and the other around the wrist. Those two rings are held together by two 2” long interconnecting supports that run lengthwise along the inner forearm. A Myo armband is attached to the inside of the ring near the upper forearm while a Moto 360 smartwatch is attached to the exoskeleton. This ensures skin contact for both the armband and the smartwatch. This way, we can have the armband process the hand gestures and the smartwatch will record the user’s heart rate. The Myo armband keeps the exoskeleton bound to the user’s upper forearm, while a velcro strap will keep the exoskeleton bound to the user’s arm on the wrist area. The smartphone fits into a pocket which is attached to the exoskeleton lengthwise along the inner forearm.

What it Does

The current iteration of the Space Sleeve has been designed for health - it provides vital health and environmental information to the user right on the screen attached to the sleeve. For vital health information, the app will display the heart rate, body temperature, and drinking water levels inside the suit. The smartwatch captures the heart rate, while the thermometer in the smartphone captures the body temperature. The drinking water levels for this iteration of the app will display placeholder values. True drinking water levels will be added in later versions. The app will also display personal oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen levels inside the suit. For now, those values will be placeholders and the proper sensors will be included in later iterations. For environmental information, the app will display atmospheric pressure, and weather (warnings for storms). The atmospheric pressure value will be from the phone’s barometer. Weather alerts can be pushed to the app from home base. In addition to the health and environmental information, local time, earth time, a mission timer, and distance from the base neatly tie the information together and are displayed through the app.

The current version has also been designed for interconnectivity to the team, environment, and tools such as rovers. Astronauts in Base Camp can send objectives to the astronauts on their spacewalks, which will show up in the “Mission Status” screen of the app. Each objective can be checked off by making a fist gesture. On another screen, the user is presented with a downloaded map of the area, along with the relative locations of team members and rovers on the map. In addition to their relative locations, the app will display which teammate is where, their relative distances from the user, and their heart rates. The objectives list, locations on the map, relative distances to the user, and the local/Earth times will ensure complete cohesive interconnectivity between all team members. The smartphone acts as an accelerometer and the readings will be used to determine direction and distance away from the home base. The home base computer can then plot those locations on a downloaded map and then constantly send updates to each astronauts’ Space Sleeve. Through this, the astronauts will be able to see each other’s relative locations on the map screen.

Other Design Considerations

Having the vertical screen view would lend itself to prioritizing certain information cards (ie. heart health, oxygen levels, humidity, temperature, etc.). Having things occur from top to bottom allows the designers to choose the most important things to show up at the top. Also, this means that we do not need to change the orientation of the screen depending on what handedness the astronaut is. Having the screen on the inner part of the forearm would help protect the screen from the elements because it wouldn’t be as exposed. The sleeve would need to be designed with materials for space in mind. The sleeve will display the following properties: impermeable, lightweight, strong structure, baggy enough to fit in the other layers of the spacesuit such as insulation, transport tubing, liner, etc.

In this iteration of the design, the smartwatch is used to record the user’s heartbeat. The phone displays the information and acts as an accelerometer to determine distance from the home base, thermometer to measure body temperature, and barometer to measure atmospheric pressure. In future iterations, we would like to include a flexible screen that bends around the inner forearm, instead of attaching a smartphone to the sleeve. Since the phone would be removed, a separate accelerometer for direction/distance determination and a small computing device to run the code would be added to the sleeve. Temperature, moisture, oxygen sensors, nitrogen sensors, and carbon dioxide sensors would be added to the inside of the suit and relay back to the computing device. The water supply tank would be wired to relay data to the computing device so the app can display the drinking water levels in the suit. A humidity sensor could also be added to the suit to inform the user of moisture levels. A UV light sensor could be added many iterations later to the outside of the suit and relay back to the computing device.

Resources Used

The Myo Armband allows the user to switch between screens using hand gestures. A Moto 360 Smartwatch records the user’s heart rate. A Nexus 6p Smartphone serves as the screen for the astronaut to view all the vital health and environmental information. The smartphone is also used as an accelerometer to help determine distance and direction from the homebase, a thermometer to measure body temperature, and a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure. A 3-D printer was used along with Solidworks to create the exoskeleton portion of the sleeve. Android Studio was used to create the app for the smartphone.

What's next for The Space Sleeve

A few of our team members are hoping to continue to work on the Space Sleeve in a more educational capacity. We are hoping to improve on our code and physical design over the next few months and would love to continue to learn about space exploration.

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