Wearables are not just for consumers on earth. Now a NASA contractor developed a high-tech wearable that tracks astronauts in weightlessness on the ISS.
A new wearable helps NASA to design more space efficient spacecrafts. This could become even more important for Mars missions. The useable area aboard a spacecraft is very limited once you fill it with people, supplies to sustain them, equipment for experimentation. There is though weightlessness, which enables potential creative opportunities for astronauts to expand their working and living environment.
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NASA has yet not data about how astronauts move about weightlessness when they are on the ISS. Draper Laboratory to develop a wearable device that will track astronauts’ location and orientation as they move around the International Space Station. From these devices, three dimensional models of the crew’s use of the habitat can be created and validated. These models could inform and improve designs of future spacecraft to maximize the space astronauts have to work.
“The habitable volume of the ISS is 13,696 cubic feet—nearly that of a 2000 square foot home,” said Jana Schwartz, Draper’s Human Centered Design & Engineering group leader. “That’s a lot of room up in space, and Draper’s technology can help NASA determine how to better use it when designing future spacecraft.”
The wearable tracker users optical sensors to determine an astronaut’s location within the ISS relative to other objects, as well as inertial measurement units (IMUs) and algorithms that, when packaged into an integrated system, can provide continuous information about movement and orientation.
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The tracker is not yet a small wrist band. The prototype is still big, but the Apple Watch also started out as an iPhone strapped on velcro band.