Boeing has unveiled its “Boeing Blue” spacesuit designed to bring astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s commercial flight company SpaceX has hired a Hollywood superhero costume designer Jose Fernandez to create its Ironman-like spacesuit. The only requirements: make it look awesome. They hired the right guy for the job.
Whether it’s Boeing’s Starliner or SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, it seems like some of the big guns in aeronautics are prepping for commercial space travel. And what would space be without an amazing astronaut suit? NASA’s heavy-duty bright orange traditional suit, although practical for water rescues, is getting a serious upgrade and who better than Boeing and Tesla’s Elon Musk to take the challenge.
Improvements on NASA’s Spacesuit
The NASA tech stays the same – a fully pressurized life support system for astronauts whether they’re re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere or going on a space walk. Boeing’s spacesuit, already unveiled and ready to protect astronauts during a planned spaceflight in 2018, is 20 lbs (10 lbs lighter than NASA’s) and has a special cooling layer that allows water not air to leave the suit. Outside of the lightweight materials and temperature cooling system, here are some of the additional features of Boeing’s spacesuit according to Popular Science:
- Zippers around the joints allowing for more flexibility
- Touch screen friendly gloves for operating Starliner’s control panel
- Space shoes designed by Reebok that look like running shoes (compared to NASA’s clunky moonwalkers)
With both Boeing and SpaceX designing its own spacesuit, NASA is giving its Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) a major upgrade in the areas of comfort, durability, and mobility – unveiling its new version in time for an Orion space launch in the 2020’s.
SpaceX Superhero Spacesuit
SpaceX has an entirely different approach to its spacesuit design – evoking the services of a Hollywood designer whose costumes have appeared in Batman vs. Superman, the Avengers, and Tron: Legacy. Jose Fernandez, who was hired by Musk to create a “bad-ass suit” said, “It had to be practical but it also needed to look great.” In a 2015 interview with Newsweek, Elon Musk said, “It needs to be both like a 21st-century spacesuit and work well at the same time.”
Virgin Galactic Democratizing Space Travel
Boeing and SpaceX aren’t the only companies prepping for commercial space travel. After their most recent successful glide test of its VSS Unity, the first spaceship manufactured by Virgin Galactic is one step closer to achieving its goal to democratize space travel.
From maximizing the International Space Station’s full potential to allowing private company’s the ability to perform microgravity research and development, there’s a growing list of practical reasons to back the commercial spaceflight industry. Now it’s time to come up with a functional suit that caters to commercial space exploration. Sparing no expense and limited only by their imaginations, Boeing and SpaceX seem to be on the cusp of revolutionizing the spacesuit.
With other industries, like pharmaceuticals and materials sciences, poised to benefit from commercial spaceflight and vaccine development already underway on the ISS, it appears that some of the world’s visionaries have seen the potential in space travel.