Reducing Metabolic Cost During Planetary Ambulation Using Robotic Actuation

L Kluis, N Keller, HD Bai, N Iyengar, R Shepherd, A Diaz-Artiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


introduction: Current spacesuits are cumbersome and metabolically expensive. The use of robotic actuators could improve extravehicular activity performance. We propose a novel method to quantify the benefit of robotic actuators during planetary ambulation. methods: Using the OpenSim framework, we completed a biomechanical analysis of three walking conditions: unsuited, suited with the extravehicular mobility unit (EMU) spacesuit (represented as external joint torques applied to human joints), and suited with the EMU and assisted by robotic actuators capable of producing up to 10 Nm of torque. For each scenario, we calculated the inverse kinematics and inverse dynamics of the lower body joints (hip, knee, and ankle). We also determined the activation of muscles and robotic actuators (when present). Finally, from inverse dynamics and muscle activation results, the metabolic cost of one gait cycle was calculated in all three conditions. results: The moments of lower body joints increased due to the increased resistance to movement from the spacesuit. The additional torque increased the overall metabolic cost by 85% compared to the unsuited condition. The assistive robotic actuators were able to reduce the metabolic cost induced by EMU resistance by 15%. discussion: Our model indicates that the majority of metabolic cost reduction can be attributed to the actuators located at the hip. The robotic actuators reduced metabolic cost similar to that of modern-day actuators used to improve walking. During a Mars mission, the actuators could save one crewmember up to 100,000 kilocal on one 539-d planetary expedition.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)570-578
Number of pages9
JournalAerospace medicine and human performance
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. by the Aerospace Medical Association, Alexandria, VA.


  • SmartSuit
  • Energy expenditure
  • Human performance
  • Metabolic cost
  • Musculoskeletal modeling


Dive into the research topics of 'Reducing Metabolic Cost During Planetary Ambulation Using Robotic Actuation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this