Learning About Space Suit Design With Astronaut Joseph Tanner

This past week, my brother Jason and I were fortunate enough to be allowed to sit in on a guest lecture at the University of Colorado Engineering Center by NASA Astronaut Joe Tanner. Joe spoke to us about the ins and outs of spacesuit design, and shared a bunch of his personal stories. A pic or two, as well as my brief notes:

2012-10-30 Space and Guns - IMG_0429

Space Habitat Design  – ASEN 5158


  • Main challenges of EMU – refurbishment of the suit after every flight.
  • Now on ISS, suits left on station for a long time – like 6 months. modular components
  • EMU – on extended EVA’s, it’s necessary to resupply suit halfway through – takes 5 minutes minutes to refil o2.
  • Limiting consumable on EMU is the co2 scrubbing system
  • After Ed White’s gemini EVA, training focus was switched to underwater training
  • Apollo EVAs
    • Umbilical based
    • to pick up film from outside of module
    • no cooling system
    • Backpack – SOP – Secondary o2 pack
  • Apollo Lunar walk SOP
    • Very high center of gravity because of high location of SOP
  • STS
    • SAFER – cold gas jet mechanism for navigating in space.
  • Suited Environments
    • Launch, Entry and Abort – must be able to operate flight controls, as well as emergency depress/egress
    • Orbital – shirts and shorts, unless on TV, then nasa wants the astronauts to wear long pants.
    • Lunar/Mars – main concern is the dust – will eat the suit alive!
    • NEO’s – Biggest problem is body stabilization
  • Suit Functional Requirements
    • Environmental control and live support parameters
      • Maintain Pressure
      • Remove co2
      • Provide o2
      • thermal control
      • humidity control
      • trace contaminant control
      • mmod/radiation protection
      • food/water
        • water is space suit is tube with actual bite valve from Camelbak
      • waste
      • mobility/dexterity
  • ORLAN Russian Spacesuit
    • In use for 40+ years, still in use today. Pressurized at 5.7 psi suit, which makes an easier transition from cabin to eva, but makes hand dexterity more difficult.
  • Delta p Concerns
    • Getting from cabin pressure to suit pressure – issues include decompression sickness, bends, etc
    • Prevented by lowering cabin pressure, lowering N2 content in atmosphere, or lowering n2 content in human.
    • Prebreathe protocol – facilitate equilibrium
    • Zero prebreathe is at 8.3 psi
  • Haldane’s Ratio – Defines cabin/suit pressure ration based on risk of DCS
2012-10-30 Space and Guns - IMG_0430
Jeffrey Donenfeld and NASA Astronaut Joseph Tanner