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Wearable sensors of astronaut postures



Organisational Unit
30 May 2023

Duration: 36 months


Astronauts exposed to microgravity not only experience a loss of bone and muscle mass, but also a change of posture, causing a loss of the normal spinal curves, leading to so-called ‘space adaptation back pain’ . Whilst garments exerting static loading to mimic gravity on the spine and lower limbs have been described, there are no systems that provide feedback on the posture, as needed to adopt specific countermeasures. Ideal continuous monitoring systems of the posture should be fully and comfortably wearable. State-of-the-art posture sensing technologies include electrogoniometers, which however interfere with the joint’s kinematics and are uncomfortable. There also gyroscopes, whose accuracy is however limited by signal drifts (due to integration of angular velocity); their conventional terrestrial strategies of compensation via co-located accelerometers and magnetometers cannot be used in space, where gravity is nearly null and the magnetic field is affected by the spacecraft. Recently, our group described a wearable sensing technology able to easily detect both flexions and torsions of the body trunk. It consists of thin and soft elastomeric capacitive sensors, which can increase their capacitance upon stretching. After calibration, variations of capacitance can be related to changes in posture. So far, we demonstrated their performance in a wearable low-cost system, consisting of shoulder straps carrying strip-shaped sensors, which could easily be worn under common clothes, with wireless electronics. This project idea aims to apply this new sensing technology to continuously monitor astronauts’ postures, without any external or uncomfortable device and in the absence of gravity. The sensors could either be supported by shoulder straps, or even be printed on clothes adherent to the body under the astronaut’s suit.

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Wearable sensors of astronaut postures