Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who founded SpaceX, revealed on Tuesday the first finished spacesuit made by his company. In a picture uploaded on his Instagram, he showed a black and white suit with the flag of the United States of America, and a helmet that lets the public see all of the astronaut’s face.
According to Musk’s post, he promised to release new information on the next days. However, he said the suit wasn’t a mock-up: it is an actual photograph, and the suit is completely functional. SpaceX Company has been willing to create a better suit for a possible mission to Mars, which it’s estimated to be around 2022.
The spacesuit was not created for spacewalks because they’re pressure suits. This is meant to be used inside of the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Capsule if the astronaut ever needs to transport in case the capsule depressurized.
A more flexible spacesuit
SpaceX has been willing to coordinate the first private spacecraft. According to Musk, the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will work with NASA under contract so the company can be the first one to create a private space ferry for humans.
The new SpaceX’s spacesuit is created not for those moments where astronauts are outside of the ship working in the vast open space; those kind of suits are much more complicated than this one. SpaceX’s spacesuit is for when they’re inside of the spacecraft, or even in the International Space Station. It was meant to be much comfortable for astronauts than any other created before.
The design of the spacesuit combines different elements of utility and style. According to Musk’s Instagram post, it was not very easy to create it. He wanted the suit to be easily washable, and to let astronauts move naturally when using it. Thus, they can conduct experiments or investigations more comfortably.
“First picture of SpaceX spacesuit. More in days to follow. Worth noting that this actually works (not a mockup),” wrote Elone Musk, founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX. “Already tested to double vacuum pressure – referring that the suit was inflated twice the pressure of sea level and then put into a vacuum chamber -. Was incredibly hard to balance esthetics and function. Easy to do either separately.”
SpaceX CEO promised “more in days to follow,” but this is not the first time Musk has promised proximate information.
In 2013, Musk tweeted that the suit would be revealed “by year end.” Then, he did it again on Reddit in 2015, assuring the design of the suit was completely finished and that he would unveil it “later this year.” Just a further tease was published by Vogue magazine that fall, with a picture of the SpaceX founder wearing a prototype of the spacesuit helmet. Then in 2016, suppose photos of the SpaceX spacesuit were leaked on Reddit, but some users doubted that they were from the actual company. Now, the public can see that the suit is very similar to what appeared in those photos.
The race between SpaceX and Boeing for sending humans to space
SpaceX is not the only company that is working with NASA to send humans to space. Boeing and SpaceX are working under contract with the space agency since 2014, each one received $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion respectively. Both companies are willing to send their first crewed missions around the same time, possibly on next year.
On January, Boeing revealed its first spacesuit. With just a simple look, the world was amazed by its design. However, it was not only the blue color what surprised the public, but all the other features within it. This suit has touchscreen-friendly gloves for the modern interior of the Starliner spacecraft, and it’s also very comfortable and flexible due to the zippers in the torso, which let astronauts stand up and sit as many times they want. According to Boeing, the hood-like soft helmet is made with a big polycarbonate visor to let astronauts see everything that surrounds them in an effortless way. It allows them to have peripheral vision.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) lets both companies work according to their design criteria and their own merits, the agency said. The work of both companies to complete the designs of the CST-100/ United Launch Alliance Atlas V and Crew Dragon/Falcon 9 v1.1 integrated systems, respectively, under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability known as CCtCap, was pretended to end this year, but they have just released their spacesuits, making that goal look like a little far.
“We’re not going to sacrifice crew safety for that goal. We’re going to work methodically with our partners as we move forward and make sure their systems can perform to the safety requirements that we have prior to being certified,” said the manager of CCP, Kathy Lueders.