NASA Reveals New Spacesuit Design


NASA will reveal the design of the new spacesuit soon, after over 200,000 people from all around the world voted to choose one of the top three finalists. The public could choose between a “Biomimicry” design, which focuses on portraying the harshness of space, “Technology” blends parts of the old suit with elements of the future and “Trends in Society” mirrors the way in which clothes could look like in the near future. The voting ends on April 15, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Taking into consideration, before Z-1, there has not been any improvement in space suits for 30 years, the unveiling of the Z-2 is an awaited event.

After today, NASA will reveal the design of the new spacesuit, a choice in which the public’s opinion was of utmost importance. Since all three options incorporate technology that enhances safety, shortens preparation time and improves “astronaut capabilities during spacewalks and surface activities,” the only difference is in the design. NASA’s Z-2 Suit represents the newest prototype and, although the first test in space will probably be done around 2020, tests in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) will ensure that the new suits are pressurized, regulate carbon dioxide level, offer breathable atmosphere, protection against the environment and control both temperature and waste control. Testing the new spacesuit is essential, since astronauts could suffer physical injuries, hypoxia or hyperpyrexia, thermal shock, cardiac dysrhythmias and decompression sickness if something goes wrong.

NASA Z-2 spacesuit design vote ends tonight, so the agency is expected to reveal its new suit soon, but Z-2 will be complete by November 2014. In April 2013, ILC, the primary suit vendor won a $4.4 million contract over David Clark and teamed up with Philadelphia University in order to design, produce and test the new suit, which will combine with the agency’s Portable Life Support System (PLSS), the backpack-like unit that offers ventilation, oxygen and refrigerated water. Moreover, during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit on March 27, a team of JSC engineers talked about the resistance of the spacesuit to impact. However, the most significant change NASA made when designing the new spacesuit was the improvement of the upper body mobility and diminishing the action of putting the suit on and taking it off, which could cause injury. As a result, the suit engineers have created “a rear-entry configuration” to help astronauts suit up faster and better.

NASA will soon reveal the design of the new spacesuit, which also focuses on offering hands better mobility; since this part of the body represents an essential tool in outer space, there are 62 distinct sizes with modification of finger lengths in each size. The Z-1 spacesuit was named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2012, but Z-2 differs from its predecessor, since the latter includes a hard composite upper torso for “long-term durability that a planetary [spacesuit] will require.” Its boots are also more advanced and the elements are “compatible with a full vacuum environment.”

NASA will reveal the design of its new spacesuit, a choice made by the people who voted their favorite, but since Z-2 is “still in the prototype or non-flight phase,” the first test in space will have to wait approximately six years more.

By Gabriela Motroc

Space Safety Magazine

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