(Not an official name change, just trying it out for size...)
After years of study, the NASA Decadal Planning Team (now reorganized as the NASA Exploration Team, or NeXT) announced that the next major goal in space should be a "Gateway" station at the L1 point between the Earth and the Moon. A small space station at this location will become the focal point for future large telescope assembly, eventual human return to the lunar surface, and ultimately to Mars and beyond. All of these objectives will require extensive dexterous operations in the vicinity of the Gateway station, traditionally performed by extravehicular assembly (EVA).
However, current pressure suits are not ideal for operations in deep space. They offer minimal protection against radiation, both galactic cosmic rays and solar particles. They require extensive prebreathing protocols, large airlock and maintenance complexes, and frequent maintenance and resizing. There is a great opportunity for revolutionary approches to EVA for this new Gateway station.
The University of Maryland ENAE484 class for 2003 will perform a detailed design and assessment of a closed-cabin atmospheric system for extravehicular operations. This concept dates back to the time of Wernher von Braun's concepts for on-orbit assembly of space stations and Mars vehicles in the 1950's, and was popularized as the EVA pods in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It has variously been referred to as a "bottle suit", "closed-cabin cherry picker", or "manned autonomous work system", but has most often been labeled (pejoratively) as "man-in-a-can". No such system has ever been tested, simulated, or even designed beyond a conceptual image in an artist's concept. This year's class will the detailed design and operations analysis for the Space Construction and Orbital Utility Transport, or SCOUT. This will include the SCOUT vehicle, a docking fixture for attachment to the Gateway station with accommodations for consumables replenishment between missions, and scenarios for operational applications of this new category of vehicle. It is expected that this effort will include not only analysis and computer design, but also the construction of mockups for visualization and human factors testing.