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RETURN TO FLIGHT
NASA Goddard Helps in The Making of an Astronaut's Tool Box

06.27.05

When officials at Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston, asked the Hubble Space Telescope Extravehicular Activity (EVA) team at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., to develop new tools for the Space Shuttle's Return to Flight, the Goddard team members rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

Astronaut testing IR Camera Image to Right: Astronaut testing Infrared Camera

Astronauts need unique tools when working in space. They have to be safe and cannot cause any tears or cuts. The tools also have to withstand extreme temperatures ranging from about 150 degrees below zero to 150 degrees Fahrenheit for astronaut spacewalks. The space suits have large pressurized gloves. Imagine making home improvements while wearing a hockey glove full of water. "Not only are the gloves bulky, you also have to react against the glove forces," noted Russell L. Werneth, EVA engineering manager at Goddard.

The Hubble team collaborated closely with JSC and Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., to design, test and build new space hardware. They developed a tool stowage caddy that holds an assortment of hand tools on the space suit for on-orbit Shuttle tile repair and an infrared camera for Shuttle wing inspections. The team also developed a prototype laser contour gauge for non-contact measurements of both damaged and repaired tile surfaces and various concepts for worksite stabilization for inspection and repair.

Sometimes the team was able to modify existing tools that you can find at a local hardware store or auto part store. One example was a thermal sensor used to measure the surface temperatures of the Shuttle wing. "We originally didn't think we would have to do a lot of redesign to develop a tool quickly," said Werneth.

Astronaut working on the Hubble Space TelescopeImage to Left: Astronaut works on the Hubble Space Telescope

However, once they tested the sensor under a simulated space environment, the team discovered that they'd have to modify the probe.

JSC selected the Hubble team based on their outstanding track record for developing unique astronaut tools, used to upgrade Hubble during four successful servicing missions.

"We delivered flight units of the tool stowage caddy to JSC in January, "said Daniel Motto, lead EVA tool development engineer for Swales Aerospace.

Since then, a flight tool bag, the thermal sensor, and a repair material palette have also been designed, tested, and delivered. "Our team is extremely proud that we directly contributed to this significant NASA-wide effort."


Susan Hendrix and Rani Chohan
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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