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the "space activity suit" - a historical perspective and a primer on the physiology of mechanical counter-pressureSince the 1950s, mechanical counter-pressure (MCP) has been investigated as a possible alternative design concept to traditional extra-vehicular activity (EVA) space suits. While traditional gas-pressurized EVA suits provide physiological protection against the ambient vacuum by means of pressurized oxygen to at least 3.1 pounds per square inch absolute (160 millimeters of mercury), MCP provides protection by direct application of pressure on the skin by a fabric. In reviewing the concept, MCP offers distinct potential advantages to traditional EVA suits: lower mass, reduced consumables, increased mobility, increased comfort, less complexity, and improved failure modes. In the mid 1960s to early 1970s, Dr. Paul Webb of Webb Associates developed and tested such a suit under funding from NASA Langley Research Center. This "Space Activity Suit" (SAS) was improved many times while testing in the laboratory and an altitude chamber to as low as 0.3 pounds per square inch absolute (15 millimeters of mercury). This testing, and the reports by Webb documenting it, are often presented as evidence of the feasibility of MCP. In addition, the SAS reports contain a wealth of information regarding the physiological requirements to make MCP work at the time, which is still accurate today. This paper serves to document the Space Activity Suit effort and analyze it in today's context.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
McFarland, Shane M.
(Wyle Laboratories, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Ross, Amy J.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Sanders, Robert W.
(Wyle Laboratories, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
July 11, 2019
Publication Date
July 7, 2019
Subject Category
Man/System Technology and Life Support
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
International Conference on Environmental Systems(Boston, MA)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
Technical Review
Single Expert

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