May 30 held a successful launch of spacecraft Crew Dragon, which delivered Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International space station. Almost more attention than the start, was attracted by the costumes that were on the astronauts. New spacesuits SpaceX really like the clothes of characters from Hollywood movies than the usual rescue suits, the familiar photo from Baikonur. What is the difference between the new costumes, what materials they use and whether SpaceX had to sacrifice functionality in favor of striking appearance — “Medusa” tried to find out from experts in schaferkotter, engineers, and historians of the cosmos.
Photo: screenshot twitter.com/SpaceX
Like cars, the suits vary widely. The most massive and impressive — those that are designed for spacewalks, such as Orlan and EMU used on the ISS. Their main task — to provide astronauts protection against radiation and micrometeorites outside the station. This is a very heavy machines, the shell of which consists of multiple layers (“Eagle”, for example, weigh about 115 pounds) — in fact, it is a small spacecraft that can operate in standalone mode, i.e. independently from the other equipment of the ISS, many hours. And although the astronauts do not go in them, but mostly working with his hands, it still requires considerable effort. For this kind of close space suits and other suits for extra-vehicular activity — for example, the “Hawks”, developed in 1960-e years in Russia, and the famous A7L spacesuits in the Apollo walked on the moon.
However, there is another type of space suits that astronauts wear only during takeoff and landing — they are called the rescue. The main objective of these suits is to serve as a backup life-support systems of a spacecraft if they fail during an accident and become protective equipment, if the pilot is forced to eject with a parachute in the atmosphere. Such suits are W1, which was worn by Yuri Gagarin during the first flight into space, “pumpkin” LES that were used in the framework of the program “space Shuttle”, and modern spacesuits “Sokol”, which astronauts wear for extra insurance and protection during takeoff and landing of the Soyuz spacecraft. To this type belong the costumes SpaceX.
Photo: screenshot twitter.com/SpaceX
Design more important than functionality?
Since Gagarin in the device of the emergency spacesuits noticeably, nothing has changed, but the new costume SpaceX, at least visually, is not like its predecessors. Black-and-white, with straight lines, almost devoid of small parts — when compared with a domestic “Falcons” there is a bright contrast, but the differences between them, of course, exist not only from the point of view of aesthetics, but also on the technological level.
“Costumes SpaceX differ primarily by way of entrance — they have the main zipper is between my legs. In addition, the gloves are there not removable, as in “Falcon”, according to Germersheim and waterproof zipper — although they fit just,” says Michael Sannikov, Deputy chief designer of space equipment and equipment research and production enterprise “Zvezda”. It is the “Star” produces the main competitors of the SpaceX suits — spacesuits “Sokol KV 2”, in which astronauts fly since 1980 on the Soyuz spacecraft.
“Communication [in spacesuits SpaceX] is built into the helmet that it is clear from the video. Life support is connected on the right thigh, and this connector is supplied, apparently, ventilation and oxygen support, says Sannikov. — Moreover, the [difference is that] from “Sokolov” in sight on the chest is a regulator which maintains the pressure in the suit when the supply of oxygen in case of depressurization — at SpaceX is probably also somehow implemented, it was just a different technical solution. This controller can be on Board, for example, as part of the system and disguised in a spacesuit designers really paid much attention to hide the helper elements, which are purely technical function. Not much details — in favor, of course, that futuristic”.
Photo: screenshot twitter.com/SpaceX
On the futuristic look of the suit worked designer Jose Fernandez, who, before moving into the space, creating costumes for fictional superheroes: Batman and Iron man. Moreover, it is important to note that the first was invented the appearance of new spacesuits, and then were implemented on the inside. Fernandez himself admitted to the press that at first didn’t even know what you are doing in SpaceX, and thought involved in the competition to create the costumes for the film.
Cathleen Lewis, curator of the Department of space history at the National Museum of aviation and cosmonautics in the United States, believes that this approach will undoubtedly impact on the result: “This suit looks unique, primarily due to the fact that the emphasis was on design. Previous emergency space suits were created on the basis of high-altitude compensating suits for pilots, so a lot of elements to the cockpit, moved to the spacecraft. A new spacesuit was designed so that its appearance is primarily consistent with the design elements of the Dragon capsule, and only then was turned into a real rescue suit”.
Cope suit with its main task — saving in case of an accident?
About the real technical characteristics of the suit we know very little — most of the information is simply classified. From official sources it is only possible to know what the suit is created individually for each astronaut, and that he has a single connection point for lifelines, a 3D-printed hat and touch gloves. It is also known that the costume SpaceX has a refractory outer layer and built-in protection of auditory organs.
Accented by minimalist and unconventional decision to put the appearance of the suit on the same level with the functionality expected has raised questions from some experts. Nikolay Moiseev, a specialist in schaferkotter, founder and chief engineer of Final Frontier Design, which is collaborating with NASA and the space agencies of other countries, said that the SpaceX approach is contrary to the functionality: “this suit entrance from the groin. The “Falcon” zipper front, chest, and astronauts in him going in and out without any help, they have, it takes a couple of minutes. What does it mean to unzip the zipper that goes up through the groin, from the ankle to the ankle and get into this suit? This means, there have to climb, using hands, and attempt then to put hands in sleeves. Someone should at this time outside of the suit to pull up to tighten and pull on the astronaut, and someone owed him this zipper! And back to the same thing: someone has to unbutton and pull him back with this suit. And what do you mean functionality? It is easy to put on and easily removed without outside help.”
Photo: screenshot instagram.com/spacex
Information about costumes SpaceX is very small, and how they solved or that engineering problem, you often have to guess. It is unclear, for example, as a new suit appears in the air — Moses assumes that the valves of the air outlet is built into the helmet, and the vents in the sleeves and legs missing. In modern American and Russian spacesuits ventilation system is versatile, which allows you to accumulate a sweat, as if to cool only the head, then, says Moses, is other parts of the body will still sweat.
Like other rescue suits, the suit SpaceX two shells: internal and external, but there are significant differences from the traditional approach. “This outer fabric shell no hinge except the folds on his fingers, and there is no power system,” explains Moses.
“The power system is a complex of strips, powerful ropes that can withstand hundreds of pounds and keep the suit from sprouting, says Moses. — If the suit will grow, then people certainly will not die. But if the sleeve will lengthen, the tips of his fingers inside will cease to touch the fingertips of the gloves, and you won’t be able to poke any button. This suit is so simple that if the cabin depressurized, he inflates, and the astronauts will just have to wait for them to return back to Earth. They will not be able to do anything”.
Moses doubts in the functionality of the boots that last week, as widely discussed by users on social networks: “[the Mask] these boots are part of the power system. Why leave them? They keep the form under pressure to the suit is not too inflated. But in the case of landing emergency evacuation of the ship when you have to wait for the team with small inflatable, relatively speaking, the rafts, and the astronaut in that suit and those boots will sink. They are so narrow that they do not steal, and each of them will score a bucket of water.”
The Deputy designer of the “Stars” Michael Sannikov technological solutions SpaceX a little less critical: “In an emergency, of course, it may limit mobility, but while checking the tightness of the astronauts SpaceX sit static, don’t move your hands don’t do. We, of course, to the “Falcon” from the old days is a pretty tough requirement for mobility: for example, why [in the Falcon], the regulator [pressure] was taken out at the chest? Astronauts could reach it independently and, if necessary, when he needed somewhere in a very awkward place to get to, to lower the pressure in the suit, thereby increasing its mobility. We, of course, in the “Union” make room in much. But the SpaceX ship is designed differently, and, apparently, the astronauts do not need there to make any sudden and complicated movements. Now [the developer of the Soyuz spacecraft the company “Energy” is also designing a new ship, there is plenty and the concept of the other, respectively, and to the new “Falcon” requirements will be others.”
“The design element is always present”
Traditionally, designers of space suits rather conservative approach to innovation. They are working on life support systems, so try not to make drastic changes in already well-oiled machine. Accordingly, the approach typically used utilitarian — it is important that the spacesuit was reliable and easy to use aesthetics in this case by a residual principle. However, this does not mean that Elon Musk was the first who thought about how the suits look.
“We cannot say that in the past the designers of the suit have not thought about their appearance. Any equipment includes an element of aesthetics. The fact that traditionally suit inherits its appearance from previous generations. Sometimes this manifests itself on the outside as in the case of the Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) that the astronauts wore during a flight on the Shuttle, and sometimes the designer remnants hidden inside, as in “the Falcons”, who are the astronauts in the capsule “Union”,” says Katherine Lewis, curator of the Department of space history at the National Museum of aviation and cosmonautics in the United States.
“The design element in suits is always present. Even after creating a functional costume designers remains a place for aesthetic choice. One example that comes to mind, — suits [the first manned space program of the United States] “mercury”, created in the early 1960-ies, — says Catherine Lewis. — They were based on the design of flight suits Mark IV for pilots of naval aviation forces which are developed by the company B. F. Goodrich. Initially the costumes were green that overlapped with some elements of the aircraft. At the time, and B. F. Goodrich and David Clark experimented with a reflective coating suits for their pilots. NASA decided to put a reflective silver coating that we see today on the suits of the program “mercury”, although the reason for using it inside the spaceship were much less significant than for flight mission. The decision to make the crew of the “mercury 7″ unlike the previous group of pilots was [primarily] aesthetic”.
“The SpaceX Dragon costume, positions the crew as a new group of researchers and correlates them with the new method of transportation they use. High-contrast black-and-white design corresponds to the internal and external design of the Dragon capsule,” says Catherine Lewis.
Photo: screenshot instagram.com/nasa
3D glasses and sensory gloves
It is known that the company Elon musk spent on the creation of the suit four years. The first prototype was publicly tested on the dummy Starman, which in 2018 went into space and is now crisscrossing its expanse behind the wheel of a Tesla Roadster.
In the course of development, the suit, of course, has changed: if at first it was very narrow, by the time the trials became much more similar to traditional emergency spacesuits. However, the final version still uses several unusual for this kind of equipment solutions. Touchscreen gloves are nothing new, but, for example, printed on a 3D printer plastic helmets according to individual design became an occasion for discussions.
“In Russia [in space] 3D printers used primarily for prototyping layouts, and then everything is done on CNC machines. In America, we are already in 2014 our printable hats [at once] on 3D printers. Why have we come to this? Because it is five times cheaper than CNC, and much faster, — says Nikolay Moiseev. — New helmet [SpaceX] is also printed on a 3D printer, and, on the one hand it is an advantage. But it is printed from plastic, and plastic is a fragile material. Our hats and helmets of the “Falcon” made of metal. The strength of the need that the helmet is not cracked [at high pressure]. Because of this, they made it very thick, the estimated thickness is 25 mm, while the thickness of parts helmets from metal — 1.5 mm”.
Competitors will not be to adopt specific solutions to SpaceX, but the new suits have changed the trends “space fashion”
One of the main questions — how will show themselves new suits and whether they will impact on the design of future suits. After a flight with Dankenom and Hurley held a session, during which they put “five stars”, the suits, saying that being in a capsule in them was comfortable.
“Like many, we too, until the last moment skeptical of the suits, looking [only] at the pictures. But, after watching a rehearsal of the start carefully, we saw that they really are checking the tightness of the suit when it is filled with pressure, is inflated, the glove with germanyi button, so I personally after viewing the presentation, the impression that all of the same suit they have [done] right”, — says Mikhail Sannikov of “Stars”.
Photo: screenshot instagram.com/nasa
However, a more serious discussion of the functionality worth waiting for when the astronauts return to Earth. “Somewhere that gives us a lesson, there is still the understanding of this lesson. But at the moment I’m not going to copy him [Elon musk] decision,” says Moses.
“As an example, recall the following story. Was the space race, the Soviet Union and the United States were watching each other, and that the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia got American suit, and America got the spacesuit “Orlan” for a spacewalk, says Moses. — We studied them here and there. Russia did not copy anything from the American space suit, took a except that the soft tank is made of film of water that fits in the chest area. Yes, before sewn diapers yourself, from many layers of fabric, and then [when did the modern available equivalents] just started to buy in the drugstore adult diapers. The Americans also studied the Soviet space suit “Orlan” and copied only the carpal joint of the glove. They have had problems with my hinge, then they saw a more original solution that works better. That is, the Americans, having studied the entire suit, all the details, copied only one node. This is a real historical example. I see this suit, Elon musk, and I see the Chinese I see other American firms. Some of them will want to replicate the same? Most likely, no.”
Nevertheless, the suit, SpaceX became the symbol of a new stage in the history of space exploration — to which, perhaps, expected the company when it was created. “Musk we really set a whole new trend: the suit needs to look cool. Although my teacher before that said, “Nicholas, the suit looks cool”,” concludes Moses.
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7128