Current space suit designs require substantial time devoted to donning and removing the multi-piece suit, with more time and energy consumed to evacuate the air lock so that the astronauts can begin their Extravehicular Activity (EVA). For planetary surfaces, such as Mars, the airlock itself is a major source of contamination in the form of dust, which is abrasive compared to dust on Earth. The goal of the Suitport system is to address these issues and streamline EVAs.
The Suitport is a two-part system with one half incorporated into the NDX-2, UND's rear-entry space suit, and the other half attached to either the rover or the habitat. Unlike current space suits, with the Suitport, the spacesuit connects to the outside of the habitat, reducing transfer of dust. To enter the suit, the prospective astronaut opens the hatch on the interior of the habitat, then opens the hatch on the back of the space suit and climbs into it. Once inside, the astronaut operates a few mechanisms to close and seal the suit and rover/habitat connection.
The Suitport connection hardware on the NDX-2 encloses the space suit Portable Life Support System (PLSS) much like on current space suits. With this concept, an astronaut is able to don their space suit and conduct an EVA without assistance from other crewmembers, something that is not possible with current space suit designs. Additionally, since the space suit stays outside the rover/habitat and since the astronaut doesn't have to re-enter the rover/habitat through an airlock, the chances of contamination from planetary dust is minimized.