NASA is testing a new lightweight and versatile spacesuit





Sometimes you need to step back, to be able to move forward. Space agency NASA conducts test test new lightweight space suit, still in development, which will be used by the command of the spaceship “Orion”. Tests of new costumes are in the Laboratory of neutral buoyancy NBL, far away from the Space Center Lyndon Johnson that Hstone, Texas. Interestingly, a new suit is a modified version resembling a pumpkin orange suit worn by crew members of space shuttle during takeoff and landing back in the 1960s.

The “Orion” has become a real challenge for NASA in matters within its framework a suitable wardrobe for astronauts. When the space agency started to prepare for the development of new space suit 21st century, in the minds of scientists and engineers was still rolled up in memory of the 2010 space program “Constellation» (Constellation). The original plan was decided to create a similar hard armor suit or something in between, combining elements of the rigid structure and spacesuit Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), used by members of the International Space Station at work outside the spacecraft, that is in the open space.

Rigid and semi-rigid suits, like the prototype Z-1 , proved to be too cumbersome and complex. Of course, this is not a problem when it comes to work on the space station or other large spacecraft like the space shuttle or the same “Constellations.” However, when the program “Constellation” was phased out to make way for the development of the “Orion”, the scientists had to put an end to rigid and bulky spacesuits and start developing more compact. Orion “because in fact is an update command module” Apollo “, which in turn obviously can not boast of having a huge space to move inside. There is no place for specialized suits for work in open space, which have been designed with a reserve that will help sustain a direct blow laser gun.


New suits ACES checked inside layout module “Orion”

This caused some problems, because NASA wants to use the “Orion” for a manned mission to collect samples of various materials with asteroids and subsequent shipment to orbit the Earth. This means that the team “Orion” required a completely different and more free space suits for work in open space.

Solution of this problem space agency decided to find in the history of past space programs. And instead of using two different suits (one that will be used at the start and landing spaceship, and the other – to work in open space) NASA decided to create a multi-purpose space suit that crew members “Orion” would be able to wear both inside and outside ship. That’s why the agency decided to go back to the time of the mission “Soyuz – Apollo” in 1975.

New suit takes us back to the days of evolution of the suit, in which Edward White made his historical presence in space, strapped to a spaceship special application file for 22 minutes in the mission “Gemini 4” in 1965. When the U.S. began its space program, the first suit, in which members of the mission “Mercury”, appeared modified Navy Mark IV silver color, intended at the time to fly within the earth’s atmosphere. Missions for “Gemini”, a new suit, is a modernized version of the costume, worn by pilots of supersonic strategic reconnaissance USAF SR-71 Blackbird, for use at supersonic speeds.


Design new suit borrowed from Edward White suit, used in the mission “Gemini 4” in 1965 (Image: NASA)

Both of these costumes were designed mainly to protect the human situation when sudden loss of pressure inside the aircraft. Since most astronauts spend time in a sitting position, no doubt the same will require emergency spacesuits several mobile restrict human capabilities.

The task of improving the space suits appeared when astronauts “Gemini” began to perform spacewalks. For these purposes, was modified and needs a more flexible suit that would allow people without much trouble and effort go into open space and not look at this as a living inflatable balloon.

When it came time missions “Apollo”, designers had to come up with a costume that would allow a person to walk even in low gravity. They came for lunar missions, work on Skylab, the shuttle and the ISS. Costumes have become more complex, contain harsh ingredients, add mobile and designed in such a way that they allow “to get through any hole.”



As part of the test suit check on the availability when moving through narrow openings (Image: NASA)


And mimic the situation of free fall

New spacesuit that astronauts will use during the mission “Orion” is called the Advanced Crew Escape System or abbreviated as ACES. As in the case of the suit for missions “Dzhemeni” new suit is essentially a high-tech suit for a modernized version of the SR-71 pilots Blackbird. The only immediately noticeable difference to the naked eye is perhaps the orange suit. This color suits used the shuttle crew since 1994. The challenge of a new suit is to protect the astronauts in an emergency, the support of its vital functions for a limited period of time, as well as the possibility of using available with him rescue equipment: parachutes, swimming facilities, radio and set for survival.


Astronaut Gordon Cooper in a suit for the mission “Mercury” (Image: NASA)


Buzz Aldrin on the moon in a spacesuit. The mission of “Apollo 11”


Spacesuit EMU, used on the ISS


Hard prototype suit

From the words of NASA, the main advantages of the current ACES before the suits are in the 30-year history of scientific developments that behind it, its low cost of production, as well as the ready availability of support astronaut and updated design. Development of a new suit has not yet completed, and further it will be modified to allow operation under vacuum conditions for an extended period of time. The updated model will apparently look exactly the same, it looks like the current version of ACES, except for the color – the updated model will be white instead of orange.

Major modifications will be made to increase useful when working in a spacesuit, and not just limited to its protective functions. To work on “Orion” on the back add a spacesuit backpacks life support systems that enable people to work in space for a few hours, not minutes. In addition, improvements require elbow, carpal and other low parts – they will add more flexibility. The difficulty lies in how to crank it all and it does not reduce the quality of the protective functions of the suit in case of emergencies.


Spacesuit ACES



Spacesuit ACES defined life support system (upper photo) and parachute (on the photo)

“Appearance remained almost the way it was before. An ordinary person will likely not even be able to find several differences. But internal system suit modified so as to allow to work without any problems inside the “Orion” – says Dustin Gomert Space Center Lyndon B. Johnson, head of the development of systems of survival in an emergency.


ACES tests spacesuit inside layout of the ship “Orion”


ACES spacesuit with a life support system and parachute

Underwater tests, and tests with narrow openings and inside full-size mock capsule “Orion” allow us to determine the suitability of costume to the possibility of its use in the spacecraft, and in open space. Problem is extremely difficult, because it requires the creation of both a durable protective suit endowed with advanced life support technologies, and at the same time – a convenient and mobile suit that will allow astronauts to easily use it during takeoff and landing ship, as well as during operation. In addition, these tests allow engineers to improve the system, fall arrest systems designed to move the astronauts outside the spacecraft to the asteroid and back.

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