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Space Science

Creating Budget Space Suits For the Private Space Industry 98

Zothecula writes "Although the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was unmanned during its recent first flight to the International Space Station, the success of that mission marked a huge step toward future crewed commercial space flights. SpaceX, of course, isn't the only player in this newly-forming industry – companies such as Virgin Galactic, Boeing, and Blue Origin are also hoping to take paying customers on rocket rides. However, while a lot of attention has been paid to the spacecraft themselves, one has to wonder what those private-sector astronauts will be wearing. Expensive NASA space suits, perhaps? Not if Ted Southern and Nikolay Moiseev have anything to say about it."
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Creating Budget Space Suits For the Private Space Industry

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  • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @07:33PM (#40392209)

    Ask the crew of Soyuz 11 []. Oops, scratch that!

  • Yeah; the issue isn't the vacuum; the issue is protection against radiation and orifice protection (mostly eyes, nose and mouth).

  • Re:cheap vs reliable (Score:5, Informative)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @07:47PM (#40392311) Homepage

    These guys have been building space suits for NASA / ESA / Roscomos for years. It seems like they're taking that knowledge and like just improving things - making them simpler, more standardized. Not Nike level. They will likely still be hand made for some time.

    Moiseev has worked as a space suit engineer for over 20 years, developing suits for groups such as NASA, the European Space Agency and the Russian Space Agency. Southern’s background lies in the area of special effects and costumes for theater, movies and television. Together, they designed a glove for use in outer space, which placed second in the 2009 NASA Astronaut Glove Challenge. They went on to work as technical residents at New York’s Eyebeam art and technology center, and were awarded a NASA contract last year, to continue development of their pressurized glove.

    Seems like progress as promised...

  • Re:Why pressurized? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @09:39AM (#40397435)

    Spacesuit engineer here.

    Long story short - MCP suits just aren't there yet for a variety or reasons, and there are some of us that aren't sure they ever will be (I think they will, eventually). Namely - applying adequate pressure to all areas of the body, including cavities like the crotch, armpits and crotches of the fingers. Also, making the transition from the MCP part of the suit to the pressurized bubble - you have to have a good, reliable seal against the neck capable of holding 8psi, which is substantial. The time it takes to don and doff the suits are substantial and often require more than one person. Concerns about durability long-term especially in dusty environments. And lastly, the MCP suits you always see do not include a TMG layer (thermal micrometeorite garment) which protects you against temperature, micrometeorites and dust. This layer is by far the most bulky layer of the spacesuit and goes on outside the pressure barrier. If you look at a 1:1 comparison of a full pressure suit without the TMG vs an MCP suit, the difference in bulk is definitely noticeable but not nearly as drastic as first blush, when people think about pictures of the EMU doing an EVA.

    Certainly, not to disparage the work that has been done by Paul Webb and Dava Newman and others in this area - I think it's the future...eventually. I just don't think we're quite there from a material or manufacturability standpoint.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"