Spacesuits of the Future, Today: ILC Dover Continues Its Leadership in Spacesuits
ILC Dover, the company that outfitted the Apollo astronauts and all subsequent NASA manned missions including current flights to the International Space Station – has launched a line of spacesuits for the nascent commercial space industry.
“Fifty years after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon – wearing one of our spacesuits – commercial space travel is poised to open the universe to a generation of astronauts,” said Patty Stoll, director of space systems. “ILC Dover’s Astrospace division has the proven spacesuit technology to protect future explorers who will venture beyond the bounds of Earth.”
The two new spacesuits are for Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and Launch Entry and Abort (LEA). Named Astro™ EVA and Sol™ LEA, the spacesuits are ready for customers to order now. “ILC Dover Astrospace is not waiting for the future of space flight to come to us. We look ahead to 2020 as if it were 2030.”
Astro™ EVA spacesuit made its debut to lawmakers on Capitol Hill during a United Technologies event on July 25. The event showcased the innovation brought to life in collaboration with Collins Aerospace.
“We can’t afford not to advance space travel”
Stoll believes continued space exploration is imperative, and that ILC Dover and other commercial companies will play an increasingly important role. “From our very beginning, humans have wondered what’s beyond the horizon and traveled in search of resources. We are a growing population living on a finite planet in an infinite universe. We have so much yet to learn about our place in the universe and how to survive into the future.
“For the sake of future generations, we can’t afford not to advance space travel,” she said. “It’s exciting to think about the possibilities with NASA, private industry and entrepreneurs all working toward that future.”
Increasing Access to Space…
Commercial space ventures are already speeding up innovation and reducing costs, promising to increase access to space. “Just look at SpaceX’s reusable boosters and Virgin Galactic’s air launches,” said Fran DiNuzzo, CEO of ILC Dover. “Patty and her ILC Dover space systems team are leading the same kind of innovation in spacesuit technology, building upon ILC Dover’s decades of experience with NASA.”
ILC Dover’s commercial suits bring a new level of comfort, ease of use and functionality. To meet the needs of commercial customers, the suits are simple to maintain and stow and make efficient use of existing hardware and technology.
Decades ago, ILC Dover custom-tailored each spacesuit for individual Apollo astronauts. The new line of commercial suits has a modular design that brings off-the-rack simplicity to some of the most technologically complex “outfits” ever designed. It makes the suits easily adaptable to different size wearers, reducing costs for future spacesuit customers.
… And Keeping Space Travelers Safe and Comfortable
Commercial space flight promises to make space for accessible, but no less challenging for humans who leave the comforting embrace of Earth’s atmosphere. Launch and re-entry are the most dangerous segments of any flight, and when it comes “time to leave the capsule” – to walk in space or on an alien world – there is no margin for error.
ILC Dover’s spacesuit designs are proven by more than 250 space flights, six moon landings and over 3,000 hours of spacewalks. “As far we know, that’s a safety record unmatched by any other company in the universe,” quipped Stoll.
“A garment failure on Earth can be an embarrassing ‘wardrobe malfunction;’ in space it would be disastrous,” said Stoll.
What to Wear Aboard
LEA (Launch, Entry and Abort) spacesuits protect wearers in case of an emergency during launch and when entering Earth’s – or another planet’s – atmosphere. “Our Sol™ LEA model is engineered for ease of cabin entry and exit, quick hook-up to cabin connections and maximum maneuverability to operate vehicle controls,” said Stoll. “Sol™ comforts the wearer during the forces of launch and reentry, protects in case of cabin depressurization or fire and helps ensure safety and ease of rescue in the event of a launch abort or water landing.”
What to Wear When Stepping Out (into space)
An EVA (Extravehicular Activity) spacesuit, by comparison, is its own miniature spaceship. “It has to function as a little Earth, providing oxygen, comfortable temperature and protection from radiation and space dust and debris – everything our atmosphere does to make life on planet possible,” said Stoll. “Plus, it has to provide mobility, especially for walking on extraterrestrial surfaces.”
The Astro™ model incorporates such innovations as step-in rear entry to simplify the process of getting dressed to go outside. “You don’t travel millions of miles to stay indoors,” said Stoll.
“Building for What is Ahead, Not What is Now”
ILC Dover also builds inflatable space habitats for orbital and extraterrestrial use, along with decelerators already used to land NASA craft on Mars and demonstrated to work with larger payloads. “Some may say my ILC Dover Astrospace team is living in the future,” said Stoll. “And that’s the point. Preparing for the Apollo moon landings taught us that space exploration is about building for what is ahead, not what is now.”