Jessica Duda, Ph.D.


Jessica Duda, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist
Aurora Flight Sciences
Cambridge, MA




Brief Biography

Jessica Duda is a senior research scientist at Aurora Flight Sciences’ Research and Development Center in Cambridge, MA. She has served as principal investigator for three NASA Phase 2 SBIR’s, and has been active in other programs ranging from the NASA N+3 subsonic fixed wing aircraft program to Aurora’s small UAS development.  She also leads the proposal development activities for the R&D sector.  She received her B.A. and B.S. from Northwestern University, and M.S. and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008, where she studied artificial gravity paired with exercise as a countermeasure to spaceflight-related physiological deconditioning.


An actively controlled space suit simulator for EVA experimentation and training

Pressurized space suits impose high joint torques on an astronaut, reducing mobility for upper and lower body motions. Because of the highly altered mobility capabilities and metabolic cost of movement when wearing a space suit, it is necessary for suits to be worn during many aspects of astronaut training and ground-based research. Using actual space suits is problematic due to the expense, bulk, weight in Earth’s gravity, and difficulty in donning/doffing. Aurora, MIT, and the University of Cincinnati have developed a low-profile, lightweight, wearable space suit simulator to provide high-fidelity emulation of NASA’s Extra-Vehicular Mobility Unit, the EMU.   An adjustable exoskeleton was developed, and “artificial muscle” pneumatic actuators were employed at the knees, hips, and ankles to actively control the joint torques for any given limb angle, in order to closely reproduce the non-linear hysteric relationship.  Active control also allows for tuning of the joint to mimic different current or future space suits, such that the same simulator can be used for different suits with only a software modification.  As such, the S3  will provide a means of measuring metabolic costs of various joint torque configurations to aid in developing an optimized design.   A full-body prototype was tested on MIT's Robotic Space Suit Tester, an anthropometric robot with instrumented joints.  Future work will require the use of human test subjects to verify wearability, adjustability, and fidelity.