Xi’an technologies support China’s first spacewalk in 13 years

The Shenzhou XII mission crew engaged in China’s first extravehicular activity in 13 years to perform about seven hours of work outside the core module of China’s permanent space station on July 4.

During the mission, Major General Liu Boming floated out of the module, named Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens. Senior Colonel Tang Hongbo stayed in the air lock to assist Liu and then also emerged from the spacecraft.

Wearing the nation’s new-generation extravehicular suit, the pair conducted several sophisticated maneuvers, such as testing a large robotic arm, installing equipment outside the spacecraft and adjusting the external panoramic camera.

The 42nd Institute of the Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology (AASPT), a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), undertook the development and production of all rubber parts on the extravehicular spacesuits.

AASPT is located in Xi’an, the capital of Northwest China’s Shaanxi province. It is a solid rocket motor professional research institute focusing on solid-rocket motor research, design, production and testing.

The rubber parts on the extravehicular spacesuits developed by the 42nd Institute of AASPT are the main airtight layer of the extravehicular space suit, the rubber part of the gloves and the sealing part of the joint.

The rubber components are strong, resistant to tearing and temperature fluctuations, and are adaptable to the harsh environment of space. The materials used are non-toxic and non-polluting.

Technologies from Xi’an also ensured communication between the space station and the ground during the extravehicular activity.

The third-generation of relay terminal products developed by the Xi’an Branch of China Academy of Space Technology, also a subsidiary of CASC, play an important role in ensuring continuous communication between ground control and the astronauts.

In addition, the end-effector six-dimensional force sensor, one-dimensional force sensor and joint one-dimensional torque sensor independently developed by the 44th Institute of AASPT are used as important sensing and measuring components of the robotic arm of the core capsule.

Through the spacewalk, the astronauts verified the reliability and capability of hardware involved in extravehicular operation, demonstrated their adaptability and ability to work with the robotic arm, and examined the performance of their spacesuits.