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Recent NASA studies have identified the utility of the Earth-Moon L1 libration point for the assembly and maintenance of future space systems including large science platforms such as optical telescopes. This work has culminated in the conceptual design of an L1 Gateway station, which could be used to support human operations on an as-needed basis.

While human presence will provide highly skilled and flexible capabilities for space operations, most of these need to be applied in EVA associated with the large space structures construction and maintenance. The effort required to support humans at L1 will argue for much higher EVA rates than those supported on ISS; combined with the environment effects of deep space, conventional pressure suit technologies may be inadequate for safe routine EVA at Gateway Station.

In response to this issue, the University of Maryland has begun the development of the SCOUT system. Drawing on concepts of “man-in-a-can” systems from the past, SCOUT represents a hybrid between the pressure suit design and dexterous robotic servicing systems. SCOUT is a self-contained spacecraft providing a shirt-sleeve environment for the operator and allowing zero-delay initiation of operations without need for denitrogenation. A conformal section of the vehicle, incorporating advanced pressure-suit arms, provides actual hands-on human operations analogous to traditional EVA for tasks demanding high levels of dexterity and tactility. Externally mounted dexterous robotic manipulators provide physical restraint to the local work site, transport and handling of mission-related hardware, and performance of routine EVA operations not requiring high dexterity.

 

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last updated: 01 February 2005