In a joint release today, it is announced that Recon Instruments’ head-mounted display technologies will be evaluated at NASA-led field tests to be conducted in September 2011. 

Recon Instruments is the multiple award-winning Vancouver-based technology company behind the world’s first GPS enabled alpine goggles with a head-mounted display. These goggles served as the starting point for a customized version that will be evaluated during upcoming NASA field tests, and could influence next generation spacesuit designs.

Spacewalking astronauts require access to a wide range of detailed information.  Despite this, all spacesuits to date have been limited to a paper checklist worn on the arm.   The method of providing most of the real time information has been via inherently limited voice communications, thus making the astronaut dependent on the information from ground controllers or other astronauts inside the vehicle.  As future manned space missions move towards other more distant destinations, the need for increased crewmember autonomy has been recognized.  Given this, NASA is pursuing the integration of robust graphical displays into future spacesuit designs.

In order to further develop the concept of operations and associated technologies for future space missions, NASA has been conducting annual field tests under project name: Desert RATS – or Research and Technology Studies.  The Desert RATS tests offer a NASA-led team of engineers, astronauts, and scientists from across America an opportunity to come together to conduct technology development research in the Arizona desert.  The location offers a good representation of destinations targeted for future planetary exploration missions. 

Recon Instruments’ latest display technologies will be included at this year’s Desert RATS field tests.   Results from these evaluations will influence NASA’s next generation spacesuit designs as they prepare for the next phase of space exploration. 

Scott Bleisath, the NASA systems engineer who currently oversees the spacesuit informational system under development at the NASA Glenn Research Center, said  “Recon’s packaging of Heads Up Display goggles is interesting to us in that it provided an opportunity to evaluate utilization of this display technology without the need of wearing a full spacesuit.  We have been considering in-helmet displays for some time now, and Recon’s current technology allows us the opportunity to collect early insights into how these displays might work in our future spacesuit designs.”

Dan Eisenhardt, CEO of Recon Instruments said “Recon Instruments is extremely proud to have its technology considered by NASA to aid their astronauts in space exploration. Recon Instruments’ direct-to-eye communications will be able to provide astronauts with information in real-time allowing for safer and more independent discovery by crewmembers, reducing the reliance on communication from others. We look forward to NASA’s Desert RATS and adjusting our technology, currently used for alpine sports, to provide a solution for NASA’s next generation spacesuits.”

More information about Desert RATS field tests can be found at here

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