Developing a Standardized Testing Protocol for Space Suit Gloves



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45th International Conference on Environmental Systems


The US and Russian space programs have made remarkable improvements in space suit gloves from the days of Gagarin and Shepherd. Nevertheless, greater advancements are needed to increase dexterity, tactility, and comfort, particularly as the population of space travelers becomes more diverse. To support this evolution in glove design, a standardized approach to evaluation and testing is needed that is 1) efficient, to allow for larger samples of the population, 2) consistent, for comparisons across different variants and glove styles, and 3) combines quantitative and qualitative data, to capture performance and perceptions of a particular glove. To this end, we developed a preliminary glove testing protocol, based on existing metrics, and evaluated this protocol in a laboratory setting. The protocol involved 3 tasks to assess dexterity and tactility (Lafayette Purdue Pegboard Test, Lafayette Hand Tool Dexterity Test, rope-tying task). A hand dynamometer was also used to measure grip over the course of each data collection session. Grip strength measures were paired with semi-structured interviews in assessing glove comfort. During a one hour session, participants (N = 25) between the ages of 18-36 (M = 23) completed the four tasks barehanded and while wearing intravehicular (IVA) gloves from Final Frontier Design (FFD). In addition, we collected basic hand measurements and subjective feedback on comfort, function, fit, and overall satisfaction with the gloves. As expected, results indicated significant decreases in dexterity when wearing gloves. For the Purdue Pegboard test, participants performed significantly better in this test when they were barehanded. Likewise, for the Hand Tool test, it required 22.6 seconds longer to connect washers and bolts than in the barehanded condition. In addition, grip strength for both hands decreased an average of 11.26 kg, suggesting an increase in fatigue. Lastly, subjective feedback suggested a majority of participants desired greater tactile feel in the fingertips. Results of this study suggest a relatively low-cost, efficient, and standardized testing protocol for space suit gloves can be administered in one hour, allowing for data collection from larger samples than is typical for usability testing. Our next steps are to apply this same protocol for pressurized gloves and conduct comparative testing of several glove types.


Bellevue, Washington
Carolyn E. Newton, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, USA
Jason P. Kring, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, USA
Theodore Southern, Final Frontier Design, USA
Nikolay Moiseev, Final Frontier Design, USA
The 45th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Bellevue, Washington, USA on 12 July 2015 through 16 July 2015.