03 Dec PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Candidates Test Novel Space Suits and Biometric Monitoring Systems in Zero-G with the National Research Council of Canada
Ottawa, Ont. – The National Research Council of Canada’s Flight Research Laboratory in Ottawa, Ontario recently completed its fourth microgravity flight campaign with Project PoSSUM, a non-profit citizen-science astronautics research organization with members from 37 countries. Such parabolic flights provide an opportunity to test in a weightless environment simulating that of space. This campaign boasted eight individual research experiments with eleven involved organizations over a span of four flights throughout the second week of October. Among these were Final Frontier Design, testing an affordable alternative to current intra-vehicular activity (IVA) spacesuits, and the Canadian Space Agency’s Bio-Monitoring garment system which was launched last Monday to the International Space Station with the Canadian Astronaut David Saint-Jacques.
Project PoSSUM, an acronym for ‘Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere’, invited undergrads, grads, professors, professionals from industry, and also the Canadian Space Agency to take part in crafting experiments for the campaign. This approach led to a gamut of topics being studied: from fluid mechanics, to planetary sciences, to life support systems, which are hoped to lead to novel discoveries and applications for space and earth. Additionally, the ability to test performance within a pressurized space suit in microgravity demonstrates a unique capability that Project PoSSUM has matured since it began conducting such citizen-science research in 2015. The Canadian Space Agency and the National Research Council have shown great interest in space suit testing, which can often be limited by the inaccessibility to specialized space hardware. These flights mark the fourth successful campaign in which Final Frontier Design space suits have been evaluated in microgravity by Project PoSSUM researchers.
Each of the four flights supported two test subjects, one wearing a space suit and one without, who performed specific tasks while monitoring and supporting experiments during flight. Experiments included the testing of IVA space suits, evaluation of Bio-monitoring garment systems, solid body rotation experiments, fluid cell experiments observing equilibrium states, a vacuum chamber containing to asteroid-like material to test new techniques and methods of anchoring and gripping to an asteroid’s surface, an augmented reality headset testing disorientation in weightlessness, a food behavior experiment, and wave propagation studies through simulated dust of planetary bodies. The Canadian Space Agency has been assessing the invasiveness and comfort of the Bio-Monitoring garment system sensors to minimize disruptions to astronaut workload and the PoSSUM tests marked the first time that wireless bio-sensing patches have been tested in microgravity. The sensors registered the stresses by monitoring characteristics such as pulse and blood pressure, breathing rate, and blood oxygen saturation levels.
PoSSUM is a non-profit research and education organization that conducts upper-atmospheric and space technology research while educating its members to conduct research on future missions on-board commercial spacecraft. This April, the PoSSUM team will be evaluating similar space suits in analog post-landing environments and also conducting initial tests of an Extravehicular Activity (EVA) space suit. The next PoSSUM scientist-astronaut candidate class will be held at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida from 23-30 March 2019. Interested individuals should apply online at www.projectpossum.org.