Bioastronautics and Human Factors

What is Bioastronautics?

Bioastronautics is the study associated with the support of life in space, including the design of payloads, space habitats, and life support systems. Project PoSSUM works with Final Frontier Design to test and evaluate commercial spacesuits and their operability within analog environments.

Project PoSSUM conducts citizen-science bioastronautics research including evaluations of Final Frontier Design spacesuits and associated technologies developed within the program. Project PoSSUM members work exclusively with Integrated Spaceflight Services to evaluate Final Frontier IVA Spacesuits through a multi-year research and evaluation program to evaluate spacesuit functionality, operational envelope, prototype suit/seat interface, seat ingress and egress operations, interface with biometric monitoring and communications systems, and CO2 washout tests.

About Final Frontier Design

Final Frontier Design was founded in 2010 in Brooklyn, NY with the intent to “craft affordable yet highly capable spacesuits for a burgeoning commercial spaceflight industry.” Final Frontier has developed a commercial Intra-Vehicular Activity suit (IVA) which can be pressurized in the event of an emergency, and is now in the process of certification according to the NASA flight certification standards. In 2015, Final Frontier Design won a Space Act agreement with NASA and is now developing broader spacesuit technologies. Project PoSSUM continues to work with Final Frontier Design by engaging citizen-scientists with the technology maturation process of Final Frontier Design spacesuits.

The Final Frontier IVA Spacesuit

Spacesuit Evaluation Research

PoSSUM’s Spacesuit Evaluation Program has been co-developed by Project PoSSUM, Integrated Spaceflight Services, Final Frontier Design, the National Research Council, the Southern Aeromedical Institute, and Survival Systems USA. We publish citizen-science and publicly-funded research on microgravity, high-altitude, high-G, and post-landing operations of intra-vehicular spacesuits. Following microgravity evaluations of Final Frontier spacesuits and assocaited PoSSUM technologies, suborbital flights will be conducted on Blue Origin and/or Virgin Galactic suborbital vehicles.

Phase One microgravity tests, conducted in October 2015, performed the following tests:

  • Range of motion tests
  • Translation tests
  • Seat Ingress/Egress tests
  • Venting and/or Pressurization system evaluation
  • Fine motor skills evaluations

Continuing High-Altitude Chamber testing evaluates:

  • Ability of suit occupant to seal and pressurize in a hypoxic environment
  • Suit functionality in high-altitude environment

High-G tests conducted in 2015 evaluated:

  • Operational envelope in high-G environments
  • Suit comfort and functionality in high-G environments

Phase Two microgravity testing will evaluate:

  • Customized seat
  • Analog cockpit controls and mission simulation
  • The PoSSUMCam control interface.
  • Integrated biometric systems
  • Venting and/or Pressurization system
PoSSUM team members testing seat ingress methods in microgravity using Final Frontier 3G IVA spacesuits (credit: Cinemaraven)
PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Dr. Aaron Persad prepares to demonstrate the Final Frontier spacesuit in high-G through aerobatic analog flight
Heidi Hammerstein recognizes the effects of hypoxia from a cabin depressurization and seals and pressurizes her spacesuit.

Human Factors Research

PoSSUM is involved in a variety of research with Embry-Riddle, including aerospace physiology and human performance research involving PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Candidates. These tests are designed to study the diversity of physiological and psychological responses to spaceflight analog conditions.

Flight research involving Final Frontier Design spacesuits and associated PoSSUM technologies have been conducted on research aircraft. These tests help assess the functionality of the suit in an operational environment similar to that of a spacecraft. PoSSUM’s Mooney M20K aircraft is used here to demonstrate flight procedures using a suited pilot.

Dr Sarah Jane Pell prepares to test functionality of the Final Frontier IVA spacesuit in a Mooney research aircraft, an analog operational environment to a spacecraft.

Terrestrial Analog Environment Research

Project PoSSUM and Survival Systems USA have jointly developed a program that provides analog environments to the landing and post-landing phase of manned space missions, coupled with an educational program designed exclusively for PoSSUM graduates. Project PoSSUM graduates also have the unique opportunity to participate in a wide variety of lunar and Mars analog immersive science expeditions in partnership with Science in the Wild. Here, graduates investigate the actual science that would be performed on the Moon or on Mars, the tools that might be needed to conduct the science, and how those tools would be used by astronauts within an EVA spacesuit.