I wonder how much a cordless space screwdriver costs and what its mass would be? I guess it would be a lithium-ion screwdriver, like on Earth, but would it have other specifications?

Does anybody know who manufactures screwdrivers for space?


2 Answers 2


The EVA "power screwdriver" is called the Pistol Grip Tool.

Pistol-Grip Tool The main tool used by spacewalkers is this 21st century hand-drill, built by Swales Aerospace Inc. Designed for use in the thick-gloved hands of spacewalkers, it features a pistol-style handle and large information screen. Astronauts can program the speed and torque, and the settings show up on the screen. The torque can range from less than 1 to 38 foot-pounds of force (1.36 - 49 N⋅m), and the drill can run at anywhere between 5 and 60 rotations per minute. According to NASA, this is the first hand-held electronic power tool to include all the features of a cabinet-mounted tool, courtesy of the configurable design.

A rechargeable battery slots into the handle like the clip of a handgun. Its metal hydride batteries can hold more charge at extreme temperatures—perfect for the cycles of shadow and sunlight the station experiences in orbit. The body is made of a durable, glass-infused plastic called Lexan. But you won’t see it; the whole thing is covered with aluminum tape for durability. NASA began developing the requirements for the three-pound tool in 1993 to make repairing the Hubble Space Telescope easier. It was first used in space in 1997. Engineers are not eager to design another one—the pistol-grip tool is modular so improvements can be added later.


enter image description here

According to the EVA Tool Catalog it weighs 2.09 lb without battery (page 270 of the pdf) (This catalog is pretty old, and lists several other power tools. The current incarnation of the tool may be somewhat different. You might have fun browsing the pages near page 270 to read about other power tools.)

It would be difficult to find out what it cost.

enter image description here

The source of this image says the tool was made by Alliant Techsystems. The associated article says "If you find a price, let us know."

The book Wings in Orbit describes the difficulty of adapting the Shuttle PGT to ISS use.

Pistol Grip Tool Some of the biggest problems with tools came from attempting to expand their use beyond the original purpose. Sometimes new uses were very similar to the original use, but the details were different—like trying to use a hacksaw to perform surgery. The saw is designed for cutting, but the precision required is extremely different. An example is the computerized Pistol Grip Tool, which was developed to actuate bolts while providing fairly precise torque information. This battery-operated tool was similar to a powered screwdriver, but had some sophisticated features to allow flexibility in applying and measuring different levels of torque or angular rotation. The tool was designed for Hubble, and the accuracy was more than adequate for Hubble. When ISS required a similar tool, the program chose to purchase several units of the Hubble power tool rather than design a new tool specific to ISS requirements. The standards for certification and documentation were different for Hubble. ISS had to reanalyze bolts, provide for additional ground and on-orbit processing of the Pistol Grip Tool to meet ISS accuracy needs, and provide additional units on orbit to meet fault tolerance requirements and maintain calibration.

The use of the Pistol Grip Tool for ISS assembly also uncovered another shortcoming with regard to using a tool developed for a different spacecraft. The Pistol Grip Tool was advertised as having an accuracy of 10% around the selected torque setting. This accuracy was verified by setting the Pistol Grip Tool in a fixed test stand on the ground where it was held rigidly in place. This was a valid characterization when used on Hubble where EVA worksites were designed to be easily accessible and where the Pistol Grip Tool was used directly on the bolts. It was relatively easy for crew members to center the tool and hold it steady on any bolt. ISS worksites were not as elegant as Hubble worksites, however, since ISS is such a large vehicle and the Pistol Grip Tool often had to be used with socket extensions and other attachments that had inaccuracies of their own. Crew members often had to hold the tool off to the side with several attachments, and the resulting side forces could cause the torque measured by the tool to be very different than the torque actually applied. Unfortunately, ISS bolts were designed and analyzed to the advertised torque accuracy for Hubble and they didn’t account for this “man-in-the-loop” effect. The result was a long test program to characterize the accuracy of the Pistol Grip Tool when used in representative ISS worksites, followed by analysis of the ISS bolts to this new accuracy.

To focus only on tool problems, however, is a disservice. It’s like winning the Super Bowl and only talking about the fumbles. While use of the Pistol Grip Tool caused some problems as NASA learned about its properties, it was still the most sophisticated tool ever designed for EVA. It provided a way to deliver a variety of torque settings and accurately measure the torque delivered. Without this tool, the assembly and maintenance of the ISS would not have been possible.




To replace damaged parts, NASA created its own version of a cordless drill called a pistol-grip tool. Five years and $1.5M to develop each one of them, the drill was widely used during repair programs for the Hubble Telescope and later on was used for the International Space Station. The time and production cost raises the question that why couldn’t astronauts use a drill from a hardware store? The answer is because their work environment is unlike any environment that those tools have been designed for.

Old answer about the mini power tool:

They are hacked together from stock materials.


During an extended EVA—that's NASA-speak for extravehicular activity or a space walk—Atlantis space-shuttle astronaut Mike Massimino used the Mini Power Tool, whose handle design was based on the grip on a DeWalt cordless screwdriver. And in a case of NASA tapping NASCAR, the innards of this 450-rpm driver were based on tools used by stock-car-racing pit crews. The photo shows Massimino practicing with the Mini Power Tool.

You can buy a DeWalt for $80-300 and that will be pretty close.

  • $\begingroup$ The pit crew tool set in that list is a set of wrenches etc. Unlikely there'll be a cordless screwdriver in that set (the set is too cheap to include a decent one). Pit crews use either a high-end commercial cordless screwdriver (e.g. deWalt, Makita) or pneumatic tools. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Jul 5, 2017 at 6:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Mini Power Tool =/= the Pistol Grip Tool. The PGT was not 'hacked together." $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2017 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ That fixed the problem. Its 1.5m dollars. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Jul 6, 2017 at 3:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.