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NASA’s Research and Technology Studies (RATS) team will conduct its 2012 testing events in two phases. The first phase is further separated into two, three-day parts, conducted at Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) Building 9.

The first part of phase 1 took place Dec. 13-15, 2011; the second part of phase 1 began Jan. 18, 2012, and will also last three days. This phase will focus on determining functionality and habitability of the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV). The MMSEV has a flexible architecture, allowing it to rove on a planetary surface atop a wheeled chassis, or fly in space using advanced in-space propulsion systems.

For three days and two nights during the Dec. and Jan. simulations, the two-person crews will live, work, eat, sleep, and exercise in the MMSEV cabin, housed in JSC Building 9. Throughout the day, they will trade responsibilities as EVA (extravehicular activity) and IV (intra-vehicular) crewmembers. During the EVAs, the crews will perform a variety of simulations that future crews could potentially conduct on a mission to a near-Earth asteroid, using the suitports on the aft end of the MMSEV to exit the vehicle.

By executing Phase 1 at JSC, the RATS team is able to use a medley of tools and simulators that would be difficult to transport to a field test location. The Air Bearing Floor, for instance, is a key technology that will allow the crew to test the MMSEV in the “flying” configuration on an air sled, rather than as a rover on wheels. A virtual reality lab will provide an immersive environment for the EVA crewmembers, integrating real-time graphics with crewmember motions and kinesthetic sensations of large objects – an asteroid in this case. The Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS), a crane-based, reduced-gravity system, will allow crews to conduct activities in simulated microgravity. And the air chair will allow the crew to perform simulated EVAs on a jet pack.

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