Development and Testing of the BioBot EVA Support System



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51st International Conference on Environmental Systems


With the resumption of human lunar exploration and plans for eventual Mars landings, extravehicular activities (EVAs) in gravitational environments will again become a primary focus. Geological exploration in early missions will require daily EVAs, rather than the roughly monthly sorties on International Space Station. Even in the reduced gravity of the Moon, EVA system weight on the crew will be the predominant factor in crew performance, fatigue, and safety; the largest single item of which is the weight of the portable life support system. Under NASA NIAC sponsorship, the University of Maryland has been investigating the �BioBot� concept, using a highly capable rover to accompany each EVA crew, carrying their life support system and supplying necessary consumables via a robotically-tended umbilical. During the NIAC Phase 2 effort, a prototype BioBot system has been developed to explore the concept of remotely-tended life support. Field testing accomplished to date includes extended simulated geological traverses performed both with BioBot and with a simulated �conventional� EVA backpack-mounted PLSS. These tests examine the trade-off between decreased on-suit life support weight and increased untethered activity duration in geological and base-servicing scenarios, as early studies have shown the desirability of giving the crew the option to disconnect from the umbilical and perform short traverses untethered from BioBot. This paper presents an overview of the BioBot concept and results from field testing to date, including specifics of the component systems: the rover itself, capable of traversing any terrain suitable for walking in EVA; a robotic umbilical tending system; a spacesuit simulator capable of interfacing to the umbilical, but with some onboard life support to support independent operations as needed; and the sensors, algorithms, and software to provide robust and safe autonomous robotic operations in the vicinity of an EVA crew.


Charles Hanner, Space Systems Lab, US
Nicolas Bolatto, University of Maryland, US
Joshua Martin, University of Maryland, US
Daniil Gribok, University of Maryland, US
David Akin, University of Maryland, US
ICES401: Extravehicular Activity: Systems
The 51st International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Saint Paul, Minnesota, US, on 10 July 2022 through 14 July 2022.


Extravehicular activity, Unpressurized rovers, EVA life support, Planetary surface exploration, NIAC