Performance of the Z-2 Space Suit in a Simulated Microgravity Environment
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The Z-2 space suit is the product of the last fifty years of NASA’s space suit research and testing experience. The suit was originally built as a prototype exploration space suit to evaluate advances in suit design and technology for use on a planetary surface. After the delivery of Z-2, however, NASA shifted focus and sought to evaluate the feasibility of using design features of the Z-2 suit to inform the design of the xEMU Demo space suit, which will be demonstrated on the International Space Station (ISS). Aside from being developed primarily to evaluate the overall architecture of the xEMU space suit, the xEMU Demo may also supplement or replace the existing Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU). To evaluate the microgravity performance of the Z-2 architecture for compatibility on the ISS, the suit was tested in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), which is the primary microgravity testing environment for space suits. The Z-2 NBL test series began in the fall of 2016 and concluded in the fall of 2017. Five astronauts performed various tasks that are representative of the tasks performed on the ISS. Test subjects performed tasks in the Z-2 suit and the EMU so that relative comparisons could be drawn between the two suits. Two configurations of the Z-2 space suit were evaluated during this test series: the ELTA configuration and the ZLTA configuration. The ELTA configuration, which was the primary test configuration, is comprised of the Z-2 upper torso and the EMU lower torso. The ZLTA configuration is comprised of the Z-2 upper torso with the Z-2 lower torso, which contains additional mobility elements. This paper discusses the test results from the Z-2 NBL test series.