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When NASA’s astronauts need a power tool to use in orbit, they can’t just head down to Lowe’s and pick up a DeWalt. Vacuum, radiation, and extreme temperatures make for a difficult environment, to say the least, so NASA started looking into a tool — half drill-driver, half ratcheting torque wrench — that could be used on spacewalks to maintain the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station in the mid ’90s. Alliant Techsystems filled that order with the Pistol Grip Tool or PGT: it’s a self-contained, computer-controlled, and battery-operated tool that can torque down fasteners very precisely while being operated by an astronaut with the dexterity of someone wearing pressurized hockey gloves.

The PGT’s 3/8″ drive works on a number of fasteners. The tool can apply from .7 to 25 ft-lbs of torque in its motorized mode, and up to 35 ft-lbs in manual mode. Its speed ranges from 0 to 60 RPM, and even the number of revolutions per pull of the trigger can be programmed. And if the astronaut’s too busy to do it, Mission Control can adjust all the various settings wirelessly.

An LED display shows the tool’s status as well as the torque being applied. On one charge the 39V batteries, which can be changed mid-mission, will drive 80 fasteners down to 25 ft-lbs.  If you find a price, let us know.

Pistol Grip Tool [ATK]
Article About Space Tools [Air & Space]


9 Responses to Tool Pr0n: Tools In Space!

  1. Eiki says:

    If you have to ask, it’s too much.

  2. forlerm says:

    anybody else here starwars music .

  3. Emery Roth says:

    I’d be more curious about it’s weight on earth….anyone know?

  4. Chris says:

    @Emery Roth: presumably, the “weight” figure they give on the page (13 lbs) is approximately equal to its mass and therefore its weight on Earth. However, even if that figure is its weight (i.e., the attraction in pounds-force that it “feels” toward Earth) while on the Space Shuttle, it’s not all that different.

    Using Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation, which states:

    Force = G (Mass1 • Mass2 / radius^2)

    where G = 6.67 • 10^-11 N•m^2/kg^2

    If we assume the “13 pounds” figure to be a measurement of the force experienced by the tool while on the Space Shuttle, we can solve for the mass of the tool knowing the mass of the Earth (5.9742 • 10^24 kilograms) and the approximate orbital altitude of the Space Shuttle (about 322,000 meters) plus the radius of Earth (about 6,780 km), which works out to about 6.15 kilograms, or about 13.5 pounds, using the assumption that Earth is a point mass concentrated exactly at its center.

    Put another way, that 13-pound figure is accurate to within 5% no matter where the measurement was done 😉

    Now, what I want to know is this: what the heck kind of rechargeable batteries deliver 39 volts? A set of 13 3V cells seems like the most likely candidate, but I wouldn’t rule out three series-wired sets of four 3.25V cells, either. Either way, sounds expensive :-p


  5. rick says:

    Price = priceless…
    but it is negligble compared to getting to space! I love it… a wifi driver… who would have guessed!

  6. Barri says:

    Houston, We have a problem!!!!! We forgot the charger.

  7. Ted says:

    I want one! Drool…

  8. NK says:

    I have heard 1 million dollars each.

  9. NotTheSharpestSpoon says:

    Oooh, Shiny. So pretty.
    It looks tiny, but to be able to use it while wearing a spacesuit, I’m guessing it’s gotta pretty big.
    Nice. Shiny.

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