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MIT and Dainese together again protecting astronauts

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The relationship between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Dainese continues with the aim of better protecting astronauts during both training and operations.

Current space suits are designed to protect an astronaut whilst in space and are in effect miniature spacecrafts. The drawback to these suits however is that their construction involves a series of compromises, which affect overall comfort and the very rigid structure of the suits has on occasion caused minor injuries.

The aim of this project is to create special protection that astronauts can wear inside space suits. This material will be an integral part of the undergarment currently in use for controlling body temperature.

MIT Professor Dava Newman who teaches aeronautics and astronautics and Dainese’s Technology Centre have combined their expertise in order to study the problem and provide astronauts with the best possible solution. The project has already been approved by NASA and now involves a detailed investigation of the pressures exercised by the space suit against the body. To achieve this a special suit has been made with a series of sensors, which indicate areas that could cause impact or abrasion injuries. The suit will also allow scientific analysis of the potentially harmful effects of the space suit and provide essential data for re-designing the interaction between the space suit and the astronaut.

A series of in-depth discussions with astronauts has already identified the most exposed areas of the body and allowed possible solutions to be identified. Such solutions will have to be assessed after the investigation on the sensor-fitted suit, and will need to fully comply with NASA’s specifications regarding the use of materials inside the suits, which will be worn under demanding conditions. Even the smallest issue, for example the release of a barely perceptible amount of a chemical substance or even CO2, might create problems in management of the suit micro-atmosphere and mean the astronaut having to return to the space craft.

The project is currently being run in Italy at D-Tec by the engineer Allison Anderson from MIT who, along with Dainese engineers, has created the suit undergarment for detecting the pressure points presented to Prof. Newman during her recent visit to Dainese for meetings about progress on the project. A further collaborating partner is the Industrial Design Studio of Trotti and Associates whose president, the architect Guillermo Trotti, is highly specialised in working on projects with space agencies.

The results of the project will also be made available to other space agencies with the Russian space agency possibly amongst the first to benefit.

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