xEMU Suit Integrated Audio Communications System: Ambient and EVA Pressure Testing System Performance



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2024 International Conference on Environmnetal Systems


Testing across several airlock and EVA thermal and pressure scenarios has demonstrated that the Integrated Audio System of NASA's Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) spacesuits transmits and receives intelligible audio communications without the use of a commcap or similar worn device. The xEMU audio system consists of internal loudspeakers and digital microphones (Integrated Communications System – ICS) combined with an adaptive Acoustic Echo Canceller (AEC), outbound voice operated transmission (VOX), and automatic gain control (AGC). Transducers are mounted in an "exploded commcap" configuration with helmet-attached speakers near the ears and three microphones positioned at the collar. The AGC removes inbound audio signals (e.g. suit, Mission Control, Lander, C&W tones) from the outbound comms stream, reducing echo and feedback (squeal) in low-noise suit environments. The reduction of worn communication equipment increases crewmember comfort, range of movement, and situational awareness. However, test results also highlight the need for proper fan, duct, pump, and gas flow integration with suit acoustics and audio. Ductwork may serve as waveguides for various component and structure-borne noise. Sharply angled ducts can generate turbulent-flow noise. Gas flow from inlets above the crewmember's head can generate noise when cascading over the faceplate and collar (or commcap) microphones. Sufficient acoustic noise levels (1) require increased gain to boost inbound audio, and (2) may distort signals resulting in AEC disruption or artifacts. Suit-noise levels decline with reduced pressure (density), but then elevated speech and audio effort/power become necessary. Whether the Integrated Audio System, commcap, or other device is used, suit acoustic noise can mask speech in outbound comms. This reduces intelligibility and requires other AECs/devices to suppress comms noise. Yet, adjusting a few components may yield significant improvement. We discuss xEMU audio functionality, demonstrate how acoustical treatment combined with inbound signal conditioning improved clarity during tests, and discuss future modifications.


Steven Shawn Smith, Jacobs JSC Engineering, Technology, and Science (JETS), USA
Alan L. Turner, Leidos / KBR Engineering, USA
ICES400: Extravehicular Activity: Space Suits
The 53rd International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, on 21 July 2024 through 25 July 2024.


spacesuit, audio, communications, acoustics, signal processing, DSP, noise