Spacewalk gloves in focus following Beamer incident during STS-116

by Chris Bergin

NASA’s post flight evaluations of Robert ‘Beamer’ Curbeam’s EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) gloves have revealed that his right glove was cut during the latter stages of STS-116’s EVA 3.

The two centimeter cut didn’t put Beamer at any risk, as it only penetrated through the mesh-like vectran weave, rather than the underlying protective layers, but NASA engineers are working a forward plan of mitigating future incidents, which includes reviewing detailed video of the last five hours of the spacewalk.

**The most comprehensive collection of STS-117 onwards related presentions and mission documentation are available to download on L2 **

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Related documentation on L2: Vast amounts of EVA documentation. Presentation on damage to EMU glove during STS-116. Additional images, seperate from the presentation, showing damage to the glove.

Beamer’s spacewalk heroics during STS-116 played a major role in the eventual retraction of the giant solar array’s panels of the P6 truss, which was completed on EVA 4 during the December mission with shuttle Discovery, which was primarily tasked with re-wiring of the International Space Station (ISS) ahead of future assembly flights.

Because the array was only partially retracted into the blanket box earlier in the mission, Beamer and Sunita Williams used the latter stages of EVA 3 to try and shake out the tension that was hindering the retraction.

**Ride home through the fire and plasma of re-entry with Atlantis on STS-115 – And now also with Discovery on STS-116 – TWO Stunning high quality 2hr, 355mb videos – from deorbit burn to post landing**

Utilizing a series of pushes and shakes on the base of the array, the damage to Beamer’s glove could have occurred during that ‘hands on’ element of the spacewalk. However, during the April presentation to NASA managers, it was noted that further work is required to find the exact moment in the EVA 3 timeline where the cut was sustained.

‘Conversations with CM Curbeam revealed that a likely source for damage are the EVA electrical Connectors,’ noted a NASA presentation on the damage to the glove. ‘Video review of EVA3 has narrowed the event to the last five hours of the EVA. The last five hours included, Z1 patch Pnl Reconfig, Russian Power Reconfig, Adjustable Grapple Bar transfer and Solar Array retract.’

Initially, the damage was put down to delamination, and then only noticed once Discovery’s crew had arrived back on the ground. It wasn’t until detailed inspections took place that the damage was confirmed to be a more than just delamination.

‘Post flight inspection of CM Curbeam’s gloves revealed delamination of the RTV and a cut in the underlying vectran weave,’ added the presentation. ‘The first indication of the issues was at USA (United Space Alliance) during post flight unpacking. Hole ~0.75” in length through the vectran initially believed to be caused by wear.

‘RTV wear (i.e. delamination) is expected for hand intensive activities such as manipulating electrical and fluid connectors Similar RTV delamination was observed on S. Williams left glove post US EVA 7.

‘After inspection at USA gloves were shipped to ILC Dover for a closer inspection. Microscopic inspection reviled that majority of the vectran strands had been cut vs worn. Damage is not due to a manufacturing defect. There was no discoloration of the vectran indicating that it was not degraded by UV. The seam adjacent to the cut was fully intact.’

More evaluations will follow, focusing on specific sections of the EVA 3 video, along with an additional meeting with Curbeam. NASA will also recreated specific elements of the EVA at JSC. NASA hopes to have completed all their evaluations head of STS-117’s flight in June, as the agency ensures no stones are left unturned in their hugely impressive safety drive that is a continuous effort that usually goes unreported.

‘Additional meeting with CM Curbeam and the connector experts have been scheduled. Intent of this meeting is to understand the methods CM Curbeam used to operated the connectors,’ the presentation listed as part of NASA’s forward plan.

‘Verify the connectors we have are flight like. A suited evaluation has been scheduled to attempt to recreate the damage to the vectran. Suspect crew worksites/hardware will be compared to those for upcoming EVAs.

‘On-orbit glove TMG inspections will be implemented during EVA and post-EVA. Crewmembers will provide positive reporting (to IV CM or ground)on the health of the gloves.

‘Gloves will be inspected for cuts in the Vectran (EVA Termination criteria TBD). Complete assessment prior to STS-117/13A delta FRR or EVA 9. EMU and ISS Hazard reports are currently under review and will be addressed prior to STS-117/13A delta FRR or EVA 9.’

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