What Are Space Suits Made Of?
It’s hard to believe that we have been venturing into space since the 1950s and yet, seventy years later, we still have not sent humans beyond the moon. And while national commitments to space travel might wax and wane, private enterprise has taken the lead in the human exploration of space. From reusable rockets to advanced touchscreen interfaces, companies like Space X are helping chart a new course for our involvement with space travel. This innovation even includes something as overlooked, yet incredibly vital, as the spacesuit.
Space suits are pressurized garments that astronauts wear while in space. It is intended to shield them from potentially hazardous conditions encountered in space. They are typically constructed from nylon, spandex, other synthetic polymers and liquid cooling tubes. The nylon tricot is cut into a long underwear-like shape to form the innermost layer. Additionally, spandex fibers, dacron, and neoprene, and other synthetic fibers form additional layers to assist in maintaining pressurization and temperature control.
What’s the History of the Space Suit?
Space suits as we currently define them have technically been in use since the 1930s when human beings first ventured into high altitudes. Those suits built on the technology developed for deep sea diving, which was the closest analog available.
The American space efforts started with the Mercury Program, where humans were sent into orbit and never left their ships. The needs for that suit were simple and straightforward: protect the astronauts just enough while the craft themselves did most of the hard work in keeping the humans inside them safe. It wasn’t until the Gemini Program, where astronauts were subjected to the hard vacuum of space, that wider considerations for safety were necessary. After Gemini came Apollo, with astronauts subjected to the harshest conditions yet.
The three stages of American space exploration create a handy two-tiered approach to the most common types of space suits, from the suits worn safely inside vessels to suits made for spacewalks on the exterior of a vessel.
What is an IVA Space Suit?
An IVA space suit is an intra-vehicular space suit, or one that is meant to be used inside a vessel and only need to be. Just as astronauts aboard those early Mercury launches had no need for anything stronger, current Space X passengers have no need for anything stronger, either.
One of the most famous IVA suits in the world is the suit used by SpaceX. Each of the Crew Dragon suits is tailored to each astronaut, using a design created by a Hollywood costume designer. These suits are not just uniforms, they are high-tech components that integrate with the vessel’s systems. As such, they are made of fire-resistant Kevlar and Nomex. A single connection point on the leg of the astronaut provides vital connections for both air and power. Even the gloves are advanced technology designed to work with touchscreen controls used by SpaceX.
What is an EVA Space Suit?
An EVA space suit is an extra-vehicular space suit, or one that is meant to be used in the vacuum of space outside of a vessel. These suits are also more than just a garment, they must act as a kind of a mini space craft, providing the occupant with everything they need to survive prolonged periods in a hostile environment.
While private space companies have yet to unveil their own designs for an EVA suit, NASA and the Russian space agencies have been using them for decades. The EVA suit used by NASA, for example, consists mainly of 16 layers of industrially-sewn material.
These layers provide a variety of purposes, ranging from retaining oxygen within the spacesuit to shielding against space dust. The cooling garment, which is closest to the astronaut’s skin, is the first three layers. The bladder layer sits on top of this garment, which is filled with gas to maintain normal body pressure and hold in oxygen for breathing. The bladder layer is held in place by the next layer, which keeps it in the proper shape around the astronaut’s body. The following several layers are insulation and operate as a thermos to assist keep the suit’s temperature stable. The white outer layer, which is made of a fabric that combines three types of material, reflects heat from the sun.
Get in touch with Vinyl Technology today to see what kind of space suits we can make for you.