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Nasa Projects - Astronaut Workstation

location: International Space Station

year: 2004

students: Arne Laub, Claudia Hetrich, Bjorn Berthau
Hans Huber, Andreas Vogler, Lydia Haack
Claudia Pöppel

The International Space Station, founded on decades of international experience, and incorporating permanent and long-term human presence in space, also requires the leap from human to humane environment onboard. Everyday life in microgravity is turned upside down. The seat restraint component of this Astronaut Workstation was tested in microgravity on the International Space Station in 2007 - 2010. 

The human body itself follows completely different static and motion schemes than those of a 1g environment. Every item used must be prevented from floating away. Minimal mass and multi-functionality are not aesthetic guidelines but a simple necessity.

The microgravity projects, conducted since 1998 in collaboration with the department for astronautics, Prof. Dr. Eduard Igenbergs, at TU Munich and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, put their main emphasis on the formulation of design criteria for the functional organization of workplaces and leisure areas onboard the ISS. Individual groups proposed solutions for standardized sanitary, sleeping and living racks within the habitation module.

These proposals were being tested by means of full-size mock-ups. Regular discussions with astronauts informed the students’ work, and a presentation to NASA in March 1999 was so successful that they offered to organize a series of KC135 parabolic flights to test the designs under conditions of microgravity. Prototypes of the designs such as the flow flexible onorbit workstation and the pha personal hygiene assistant were built and tested in autumn 1999. The projects are being continuously developed. The microgravity projects offer a splendid opportunity for transdisciplinary collaboration between a wide range of experts as well as cooperation with the space industry. Their synergetic potential lies in a fundamental rethinking of the processes of planning and design under extremely different conditions, and in becoming conversant with complex links between systems. The result bears enormous potential for new ideas and spin-off developments which may also find an application in terrestrial architecture.