When you watch the work that astronauts do on the International Space Station, it is easy to be blown away. All of the gear looks incredibly futuristic and is unlike anything that is used on earth. Much of this is because the equipment must stand up to the extreme temperatures and other factors that are found in space. Astronauts must also be able to use the gear while wearing their space suits, which is an additional reason for the equipment’s special design.
One of the most visible astronaut tools is the Canadarm 2, which is a mobile servicing system found on the ISS. This crane is very strong, as it can move items that weigh more than 200,000 pounds. At the same time, the Canadarm 2 is able to gently move astronauts from one location to another, so that they can work on various parts of the station.
Workers are able to guide the arm using remote controls and a large screen while inside of the station, making the entire area much safer. It also had a collision avoidance system and sensors that mimic a human’s sense of touch. This helps the arm get into tight spaces when it has precise tasks to complete.
Perhaps the most common tool used in space is a hand-drill that was created by Swales Aerospace. This item has a pistol-like grip, which makes it easy to hold while the astronaut is wearing gloves. It is programmable to a torque range of between 1 and 38 foot-pounds of force, depending on the item being worked on, and its drill runs between 5 and 60 rotations in a minute.
To make the tool easier to use, it is equipped with rechargeable metal hydride batteries, which are able to hold a charge at extreme temperatures. The rest of the grip is made from plastic that is infused with glass and then covered with aluminum tape. The design is very durable, especially for its small size.
Although it is not as exciting as the other pieces of space equipment, safety tethers are extremely important. Without these items, astronauts could easily be swept out into space and no piece of empire hydraulics would be able to bring them back. Every tether is 25-feet long and is attached to handrails found on the station. The unit is able to reel the astronaut in if something goes wrong and is strong enough to hold almost 900 pounds in place.
Anytime a gas leak occurs on the space station, the consequences could be deadly. In 2001, a significant amount of ammonia leaked from a hose that had just been installed on the station. Luckily, this leak was found before it could hurt anyone that was onboard at the time.
The space station is now equipped with a trace gas analyzer that is the smallest of its type in the world. It is only about 2 inches long and 5 pounds in weight, but it can locate even the smallest gas leak almost immediately. The device is also able to detect a water leak, if oxygen is escaping or is rocket fuel has somehow seeped into the station, making it a very important tool.