Space travel takes a huge toll on the human body. Human Aerospace has created a unique set of three compression suits that can counteract the physical stresses of space – and do some important jobs on Earth as well.

 

While floating around in microgravity, the body doesn’t need to maintain the strength it normally requires to support and move its own weight on Earth, so astronauts lose their muscle and bone density. They also suffer balance and coordination losses, and risk blood flow problems and fainting while returning to Earth. Human Aerospace has identified compression wear as a common solution to all of these problems, and its set of three suits provides specially designed support for different scenarios.  These suits are worn inside spacecraft and known as intravehicular activity (IVA) suits.

One of the suits, the Gravity Loading Countermeasure Skinsuit (GLCS), has already undergone testing on the International Space Station twice. It simulates gravity loading – tricking the body into believing it is standing on Earth, and therefore provoking it to maintain its bone density.

aus_space_sector_case_studies_hero_james_waldie_with_spacesuits
Caption: James Waldie with suits web

Dr James Waldie, Director and Chief Engineer, Human Aerospace

Perhaps the greatest challenge of future missions to the Moon and Mars is keeping the crew healthy.  Australia is outstanding in the life sciences, especially in areas such as remote medicine and medtech innovation, and so we can and should play a key role in space exploration.  It’s exciting that our suits have the potential to help preserve the health of astronauts as they venture away from our planet, but also in helping us develop new technologies that help all of us here on Earth.

Person testing space related equipment
Caption: Andreas Mogensen testing skinsuit on ISS.

Technology features

  • Intra-vehicular activity (IVA) suits to maintain health on long duration missions. 
     
  • Gravity Loading Countermeasure Skinsuit applies Earth-like loading to help maintain bone mass.
     
  • Orthostatic Intolerance Garment provides strong lower body compression to maintain blood flow to the brain and reduce fainting when landing.
     
  • Sensorimotor suit helps stimulate proprioception and movement resistance, helping preserve normal balance and coordination.
     
  • On Earth, the compression design has the potential to help treat medical conditions such as burns, lymphoedema, osteoporosis, and cerebral palsy, and support athletes with post-game recovery.

Person testing space related equipment
Caption: Glove testing by technicians. 

Project highlights

  • Agency International Space Investment Initiative grant awarded to support work with overseas space agencies on developing skinsuit technology.
     
  • Collaboration with organisations including NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, RMIT University, and Cape Bionics.
     
  • Testing conducted on the International Space Station with ESA astronauts in 2015 and 2017.
     
  • Agency Moon to Mars Supply Chain grant awarded to support commercialisation and custom manufacturing of suits – personally tailored to astronauts and other users with 3D body scanning technology.

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