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April 3, 2023: Dave Akin

April 3, 2023
4:00 p.m.
Room: 190 Goodwin Hall
Dave Akin, University of Maryland
Faculty Host: Dr. Kevin Shinpaugh

"Space Systems Research at the University of Maryland"

Bio:  David L. Akin is a Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Director of the Space Systems Laboratory at the University of Maryland. He earned SB (1974), SM (1975), and ScD (1981) degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from M.I.T. His research focuses on space operations, including dexterous robotics, spacesuit design, and human-robot interactions. He is also active in the areas of spacecraft and space habitat design, space simulation, and space systems analysis. He has been principal investigator for several space flight systems, and for multiple experimental space suit and robotic systems. He has over 300 professional publications in journals and conference proceedings in his 40+ year career.

Abstract:  For over three decades, the University of Maryland Space Systems Laboratory (SSL) has been developing and testing technologies to enhance operational capabilities in space flight. This talk will be an overview of some of the research areas of the laboratory, with emphasis on recent, current, and planned future activities. These areas include:

Robotics – The SSL pioneered the development of human-equivalent dexterous manipulators to perform satellite servicing and on-orbit structural assembly, including the development of a shuttle flight experiment. Current research focuses on the development and testing of small, lightweight dexterous manipulators for space flight, as well as medical rehabilitation and deep ocean applications. The same technology has been applied to a four-legged wheel-on-limb system capable of traversing terrains impassible to a wheeled system.

Human Factors – Humans are and will remain for the foreseeable future the most capable and adaptable systems for operating in space. The SSL has been involved with human support technologies from its inception, focusing on extravehicular activity (EVA) and spacesuit design. Current research is focusing on high-fidelity suit simulations for Earth analogue testing, including innovative cooling systems, suit displays and controls, and  integrated bioinstrumentation for measure human exertion and performance. This also enables extensive testing in areas of human/robot collaboration for space. This area also includes extensive research in space habitat design.

Simulation – The SSL includes the Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility, a 50 ft. diameter, 25 ft. deep water tank for simulating the space environment on Earth. The only such facility in the world on a university campus, the NBRF is routinely used for simulating the microgravity environment of orbit, as well as lunar, Mars, and other gravitational environments in space. Recent tests have included simulated resupply of a lunar base and fitting out inflatable habitats in orbit. The SSL is also highly active in field testing, including tests of BioBot, a robotic system to carry life support for astronauts exploring the Moon or Mars.