New space suit 2016

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SpaceX Dragon Launch and Entry Suits

Launch and entry suits that astronauts wear at the start and finish of their missions are incomplete versions of the human-shaped spacecraft that explorers use outside of the spacecraft in open space. These suits provide added safety to the astronauts during the most dangerous phases of the missions, like when they travel through the Earth's atmosphere, but they are not autonomous. The suits rely on the life support and communications systems of the spacecraft to protect life in the event of a failure of the capsule's primary life support systems. Traditionally these suits have been adaptations of pilots' high-altitude suits that mostly serve the same purpose. Thus, they have the affectionate moniker of "get me down" suits.

In his own style, entrepreneur Elon Musk has re-choreographed the line between fantasy and reality, taking what had once been fantasy and turning it into a new reality. The Dragon suits are an example of this practice. In , Elon Musk hired Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez to design a spacesuit for his firm. Fernandez is better known for creating costumes for superheroes in films such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (). Musk wanted his suits, like his capsule and launch vehicles, to look like something that had never been seen before.

Fernandez took inspiration from Musk when creating an all-black costume that resembled the suit from the movie Iron Man (). Posed in this newly designed costume for a Vogue photoshoot, Musk resembled none other than the fictional billionaire-turned superhero, Tony Stark. The all-black L&E suit was set to contrast sharply with the sleek white interior with black details of the Dragon capsule.

Of course, costume designers are not spacesuit engineers. The next step that SpaceX had to accomplish was transforming Fernandez's costumes into actual functional spacesuits. He turned the design over to spacesuit engineers currently working in the field to make it useful. We don't exactly know who was involved or how this was done—like much of the company's operations, the work was secret and shielded by confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements. But in that effort to retrofit a Hollywood costume into a spacesuit, we do know that the final product retained some aesthetic design elements from the original.

Musk revealed the first hints of what stayed and changed in the prototype when he launched a Tesla Model S roadster on a test launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in In the driver's seat of the car was a mannequin wearing a spacesuit. In a dramatic twist, instead of the black design, the suit was almost all white. One of the changes that the spacesuit engineers must have made was to change the heat-absorbing all-black outfit into an all-white one that could reflect the bright sunlight.

Beyond the cover layer, it is premature to speculate on the inner workings of the suit. To date, there have only been a handful of people who have had the luxury of fully exploring the inner workings of these new launch and entry suits. As SpaceX operations expand, more and more details will come to light. And in the fullness of time, Museum conservator Lisa Young and I will get our hands on one to fully document and preserve. We have many questions that we would like to answer, including: Which materials are used? How is the ventilation routed throughout the suit? How do the astronauts communicate? Where does the suit connect to the Dragon? We both look forward to sharing that information with you sometime soon.


NASA Wants to Test New Moon Spacesuits on the Space Station in

If NASA is ever going to send astronauts back to the moon by , it's going to need new spacesuits for lunar exploration.  But before astronauts ever don those suits on the moon, they'll test "walk" them on the International Space Station in , according to the engineer backing the program.

NASA's Artemis moon program aims to land the first astronauts at the south pole of the moon in , but the agency's current spacesuit design — called the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or EMU —  is designed for floating spacewalks (also known as extra-vehicular activities or EVAs), not clambering around a rocky, lunar surface.

NASA's in-house Advanced Space Suit Project is one of several spacesuit efforts the agency has pursued in recent years, to develop ways to explore deep space. In November , according to a NASA Office of Inspector General report, the project centered its efforts on a new generation of EVA suit, now known as the xEMU. And so far, the agency is still holding to its timeline of testing the xEMU in orbit in

Related: The Evolution of the Spacesuit in Pictures

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"We've made a lot of progress and iterated on this design, so now we have a very mature system overall," NASA spacesuit engineer Lindsay Aitchison said Sept. 11 during the American Astronautical Society's Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

So far the xEMU has gone through more than 30 runs in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, the huge swimming pool astronauts use to train for spacewalks, Aitchison said. 

The xEMU recently passed its preliminary design review, which is a major development stage showing that the baseline design appears to be operationally effective. Next up is design development testing, Aitchison added, followed by testing a full version of the suit on the ISS in Only if the spacesuit passes those orbital trials would it be used by astronauts  on the lunar surface in

Years of testing

While the Trump administration only told NASA in March to land on the moon in , the agency has been working on improving its exploration-class (or planetary surface-based) spacesuits for more than a decade. The iconic Apollo moon spacesuit of the s was based on a design that is more than 50 years old, so today's engineers are looking to create something more flexible based on what we have learned about astronauts and human factors since then.

In , the OIG criticized NASA for spreading its recent spacesuit development among multiple programs, resulting in $ million spent but leaving the agency "years away from having a flight-ready spacesuit capable of replacing the EMU or suitable for use on future exploration missions." At the time, NASA said the report "is a fair assessment of the current state of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) systems", but said the OIG was "overly critical" of the data and products supplied to explain the Constellation Space Suit System contract, which was terminated some years after the George W. Bush-era Constellation moon-to-Mars program was canceled in NASA added that some of the CSSS deliverables "may be used to reduce risk for current International Space Station (ISS) EVA systems."

More Photos: NASA's Futuristic Z-2 Spacesuit Design in Pictures
NASA's Z-2 Spacesuit: How It Works (Infographic)

Yet the agency appears to be using multiple spacesuit ideas to inform the design of its newer xEMU.

Aitchison mentioned various spacesuit designs that influenced xEMU, all the way back to the early s. Among the spacesuits she cited were ILC Dover's Mark III —  used in a NASA field testing program called Desert Research and Technology Studies or Desert RATS – and the more recent Z-1 spacesuit and Z-2 spacesuit prototypes that ILC Dover and NASA introduced in the last decade.

"NASA has actually been investing in a very methodical matter how we're going to do exploration spacesuit development," Aitchison said, including implementing "lessons learned" from the ISS program. Among the changes: the xEMU suit will have a smaller display unit on the front of the suit, making it easier to fit a wider range of NASA's astronaut population, Aitchison said.

Spacesuit needs

In March, NASA backed away from plans to run the first all-female spacewalk because there were not enough EMU spacesuits immediately available on the ISS, in the correct size, for the two scheduled astronauts to use. Modifying the Hard Upper Torso unit on the EMU for taller (or shorter) astronauts generally takes about 12 hours of work, so NASA elected to shuffle spacewalk assignments rather than take time away from experiments and more urgent repairs on the ISS. Following this situation, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told the House science committee that future spacesuit designs would better accommodate the range of sizes the astronaut population requires.

Another consideration for xEMU is it will be able to run missions on the future Gateway space station at the moon, as well as for lunar exploration or for landing on Mars, Aitchison said. xEMU's design can be changed to accommodate different missions, she explained, by swapping out some components to keep the astronauts safe in these different environments.

As for ILC Dover, the company (along with Collins Aerospace) introduced an "Astro" suit in August that can be used for floating spacewalks, moon exploration or Mars exploration. The new suit system is aimed at both NASA and commercial space partners for future lunar and Martian exploration.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow uson Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.
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NASA designs new spacesuits for next lunar mission in

Written by Megan Marples, CNN

Humans have explored the infinite abyss beyond Earth's atmosphere for over half a century.

When astronauts explore the vast expanse of outer space, they need to wear high-tech spacesuits to protect them from the frigid conditions of the cosmos.

Hollywood movies have glamorized the iconic suit, its design leading the masses to believe it's an outfit that can be slipped on within minutes.

In fact, the spacesuit is its own fully functioning spacecraft that takes hours to put on and requires help from one's colleagues, said Cathleen Lewis, curator of international space programs and spacesuits at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.

"The purpose of the spacesuit is to essentially exist as a human-shaped spacecraft that allows the human being to autonomously explore and do meaningful work outside the comfort of the spacecraft or space station," Lewis said.

From start to finish, it can take up to four hours for an astronaut to suit up, Lewis said. Before going on a spacewalk, astronauts must check each piece of equipment and make sure they have enough critical supplies, such as oxygen and water.

Throughout the entire spacewalk process, a ground team back on Earth supports the astronauts. Flight controllers follow a procedure plan that's around 30 pages long, but there are other plans in place should problems arise, said Sarah Korona, EVA flight controller at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "EVA" stands for extravehicular activity.

The anatomy of a spacesuit

A spacesuit is made up of nearly a half dozen different components and can have up to 16 layers, according to NASA.

The astronauts on the Artemis missions, NASA's next program to send the first woman and the first person of color to the moon, will wear the latest spacesuit, called the exploration extravehicular mobility unit, also known as xEMU. Before the spacesuits make it to the moon, parts of them will be tested on the International Space Station.

NASA revealed a ground prototype of the new exploration extravehicular mobility unit (xEMU) in at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA revealed a ground prototype of the new exploration extravehicular mobility unit (xEMU) in at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA

One of the main components is the cooling garment, said Richard Rhodes, the deputy lead for xEMU pressure garment development at NASA. The garment is made of tubes that circulate water around the astronaut, regulating body temperature and removing excess heat as they completes their work.

Each spacesuit has a portable life support system, which includes a water tank for the cooling garment, carbon dioxide removal system and more, according to NASA. This component also includes a two-way radio system so the astronauts can communicate.

The original spacesuits used during the Apollo missions were less flexible than the ones today.

"When the Apollo astronauts walked on the moon, they couldn't bend over and pick up a rock," said NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. "They had to have a little special tool with a handle on it."

Fortunately, spacesuits have come a long way since then and have a more flexible structure with gloves.

The gloves are one of the most complicated parts of the spacesuit, and they are often the greatest source of complaints astronauts have about their suits, Lewis said.

"Gloves are very difficult to design to be protective and also allow the manual dexterity that astronauts need to do meaningful work," she noted.

The pressurized gloves can feel constricting, especially after hours of work in space, she said. Their fingers also get cold, so heating elements need to be built into the gloves.

This glove is part of a NASA extravehicular mobility unit, the technical term for a spacesuit.

This glove is part of a NASA extravehicular mobility unit, the technical term for a spacesuit. Credit: NASA

When astronauts train to go to space, one of their training exercises includes picking up a dime in their spacesuit while underwater, Lewis said. These explorers need extreme dexterity when working in space, and the gloves are an added challenge.

Much of an astronaut's spacesuit training is in a pool at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston. The water simulates the feeling of weightlessness, which is similar to how it feels in space.

Scientists have experimented with different materials and had varying degrees of success over the years. At one point, Lewis said researchers experimented with Kevlar fingertips on the gloves.

"Kevlar is very good at stopping bullets but not very good at stopping knives -- it's easily cut," she said.

Astronauts currently use synthetic plastic gloves, but scientists are always looking for better options, Lewis added.

On the outside of a spacesuit, there are colored stripes unique to each suit. This is how astronauts can tell who is in each suit when out in space, Lewis said.

This tried-and-true system will be used for the Artemis spacesuits, Rhodes confirmed.

Making the Artemis spacesuits

The first step in designing a spacesuit is to "understand who you are designing the suit for, what you want them to be able to do, and where you want them to be able to do it," Rhodes said.

For the Artemis program, NASA needs their astronauts to be able to safely explore the moon's surface.

Over the last four years, NASA has invested over $ million in the development of the xEMU, Rhodes said. His team has tested dozens of components and weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

He said the biggest challenge for the Artemis suits is making sure they are optimized for lunar exploration.

The suits need to be "light enough to support the lunar mission and robust enough to protect the astronaut while working in the very hazardous lunar environment," Rhodes said.

There are thousands of parts that go into making the Artemis spacesuits, and they are sourced from all around the United States, Rhodes said. Some parts can take up to a year to build, but NASA is working to shorten the duration, he added.

The spacesuits will also be getting some upgrades for the latest lunar mission. Current and past extravehicular mobility units, the technical term for NASA's spacesuits, allow for minimal movement of the waist, hips or ankles, Rhodes said.

The astronauts on the Artemis mission need to have more mobility so they can explore the rough terrain of the moon, he said, so his team is working on a suit that will allow for more movement while still being strong enough to protect the wearer.

How NASA’s New Spacesuit Could Stall the 2024 Artemis Moon Landings.

NASA Report Says Spacesuit Delay Makes Moon Landing Impossible

NASA faces a multitude of challenges as it moves toward a possible Artemis Program lunar landing in There&#;s the delay-prone Space Launch System (SLS), an incomplete SpaceX landing system, and the frequent budget shortfalls imposed by Congress. Now, there&#;s another obstacle in the way: spacesuits. NASA is designing a new generation of suits for Artemis, and a government report now says they won&#;t be ready until at the earliest. 

According to the NASA Inspector General&#;s report (PDF), there&#;s little chance the current Artemis timeline remains in place. Initially, NASA planned to create two different next-gen suits, but in , it opted to consolidate around a design known as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU). So far, xEMU development has cost NASA $ million, and the agency believes it&#;ll take another $ million to get the project done. However, even this level of funding won&#;t deliver the first two flight-ready suits until , which makes the launch &#;not feasible,&#; according to the report. 

The report doesn&#;t point the finger solely at the suit &#; it&#;s just another delay to add to the pile. The IG says lagging SLS development and possible delays in the SpaceX Starship lunar lander probably also preclude a mission. 

xEMU being tested underwater.

The new spacesuit is not something NASA dreamed up when the previous administration imposed the deadline. It has been designing the next-gen suits for 14 years. They are much more robust than previous astronaut ensembles, able to keep the wearer alive in the vacuum of space thanks to redundant life support, better mobility, and a redesigned communication system. 

The xEMU suits will be NASA&#;s first major design revision in 40 years, since the dawn of the Space Shuttle era. This is seen as a necessary advancement not only because the new suits will be more capable, but also because they will fit better. NASA faced controversy last year when it had to postpone the first all-female spacewalk because there weren&#;t enough suits on the ISS sized for women. 

Of course, Elon Musk took the opportunity to offer his services. &#;SpaceX could do it if need be,&#; the SpaceX CEO tweeted. Considering how often NASA is looking to SpaceX lately, this wouldn&#;t even come as a shock.

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2016 suit new space

A $1 billion space suit is holding up NASA’s moon landing

In the end, they’ll blame the space suits.

The US government’s plan to return astronauts to the moon by was farfetched when it was announced in , and became less likely each year as lawmakers have declined to pay for the project in full.

Still, NASA publicly maintains the target date, despite delays for the rocket that will take astronauts back to the moon, the vehicles that will carry them down to its surface, and now, the space suits they’ll wear to protect them in the moon’s airless environment, where the temperature ranges from °F to °F.

This isn’t easy: NASA considers these spacesuits to be, effectively, one-person space vehicles, requiring sophisticated life support systems and reliable communications, as well as the means to keep astronauts comfortable, fed, hydrated, and capable of rambling about and using various tools.

The NASA Inspector General said this week that despite $ million spent since , NASA will not have two suits ready for the mooted landing. The agency was attempting to design, test, and build the suit in-house, working with 27 different subcontractors.

The total price tag will be over $1 billion, more than what it cost to build the Falcon 9 orbital rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft, as former SpaceX engine guru Tom Mueller observed. (Actually, per NASA, it cost $ million, $ million of which came from SpaceX.) Naturally, Elon Musk offered to step in and build a suit for the space agency. It could come to that—NASA is contemplating asking private companies to develop new space suits.

Still, Musk has enough on his plate hustling to get his next big rocket, Starship, off the ground. NASA has tapped it to take astronauts down to the surface of the moon, but in doing so, it snubbed Blue Origin and Dynetics, two other bidders, who issued a formal protest. The Government Accountability Organization (GAO) released its full decision this week, rejecting their protest.

Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos, says it is not deterred by the rejection and is considering taking the space agency to court. In particular it argues that the procedure NASA approved to review SpaceX’s vehicles before launch “would be reckless in the pursuit of safely returning humans to the Moon.”

“We continue to urge NASA to restore competition and immediately award a second provider,” the spokesperson said. “Two providers ensure greater safety and mission success, promote competition, and control costs.”

The problem with that approach—which is also NASA’s preference—is that it requires several billion additional dollars that NASA does not have and do not seem to be forthcoming from lawmakers. Bill Nelson, the new NASA administrator, hoped to win $10 billion in a bipartisan infrastructure bill, but the version that passed the Senate this week did not include it.

When asked if the deadline is feasible, Nelson tends to say it depends on how much funding Congress provides. Lawmakers reply, show us the plan. At a June budget hearing, Nelson told lawmakers the space agency would have a plan to return to the moon ready once the GAO made its decision.

Whenever that plan is revealed, it will gain significant credibility simply by acknowledging that putting humans on the moon in isn’t possible.

A version of this story originally appeared in Quartz’s Space Business newsletter.

Spacesuits for the Next Explorers (Full feature)


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