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Patent Application Filed for 'Take Me Home' Spacesuit

December 20, 2017
Post by Gregory "Lars" Gunnerson

Two weeks ago, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist Leonard David reported that the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts has filed a patent application (Serial No. 15/164,264) for a self-return system to ensure spacewalking astronauts are safe. Draper’s research into spacesuits is funded by NASA.

David explains that the self-return system determines a precise location of the astronaut in harsh space environments where GPS is unavailable. The system then computes an optimal return trajectory that accounts for time, oxygen consumption, safety and clearance requirements, and guides a disoriented and possibly unconscious astronaut to safety effectively. The system may also be configured to monitor the movement, acceleration and position of the astronaut relative to a fixed object, such as an accompanying orbiting spacecraft.

Draper Director of Space Systems Séamus Tuohy asserts the return-home technology is an advance in spacesuits that is long overdue because current spacesuits feature no automatic navigation solution.

The system’s navigation module can still be configured using GPS, vision-aided navigation or a star-tracker system, David writes. “Additionally, to improve the astronaut’s positioning and orientation, Draper has developed software that fuses data from vision-based and inertial navigation systems and that benefits from the advantages of both sensing approaches.”

The inventors believe the system has many applications that can be used on Earth, some of which include improving the safety of first responders and firefighters as they navigate smoke filled rooms and assisting skydivers and scuba divers in the event they become disoriented.

Gregory "Lars" Gunnerson is a Patent Attorney in the Mechanical and Electrical Patent Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit www.ipmvs.com or contact Lars directly via email at gregory.gunnerson@ipmvs.com.


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