What Makes NASA's Space Suit So Expensive?

What Makes NASA's Space Suit So Expensive?

Since 2009, NASA has invested more than $US200 million in spacesuit development. This spacesuit, made in 1974, reportedly cost between $US15 million and $US22 million. Currently, it costs around $US150 million. Having not delivered a new mission-ready extravehicular suit since then, NASA is running out of spacesuits. In fact, NASA only has four ready-to-fly EVA suits.

Since 2009, NASA has invested more than $US200 million in spacesuit development, most recently launching the xEMU prototype. But NASA still doesn't have a new spacesuit.

So why does it take so long to create a new spacesuit? And what makes them so expensive?

Space is an area that cannot be visited with ordinary clothes. It takes a special space suit so that humans can survive as long as they are there. Spacesuits are very expensive because they are complicated. The mind of the suit must protect astronauts from the vacuum of space, from radiation coming from the sun and other objects, and must protect against fast-moving particles traveling up to 18,000 miles per hour that can penetrate clothing. Providing oxygen, communication, telemetry, and everything humans need to survive, all in one

The size of the spacesuit is also an important issue for astronauts. Too loose and heavy can harm them.

The suboptimal astronaut suit came about when Anne McClain and Nick Hague moved a 300-pound battery aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

At first, McClain believed the spacesuit that was tested while on earth could work well in space. However, space travel or extravehicular activity (EVA) of about 7 hours made him change his mind.

The model spacesuit referred to in the NASA program is called the Extravehicular Mobility Unit and was first introduced in 1983. However, operational spacesuits were first introduced in the early 1960s to protect astronauts on space exploration missions.

The spacesuits used by NASA are currently over 40 years old.

Settings No. The 18 was developed for the Space Shuttle program in 1974 and has weighed heavily on its 15-year-old original design. Settings No. 1 were only used for certification, while the No.2 suit was destroyed during ground testing. Two missing suits in the ***Space Shuttle Challenger Crash***occurred on Tuesday, January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch, leading to the deaths of seven astronauts, the plane crashed over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida at 11:38 a.m. EST (16:38 UTC).

And the second in the Columbia Accident which occurred during atmospheric penetration on February 1, 2013, killing the entire crew and destroying STS-107 was flight 113 of the Space Shuttle program and the 28th and final flight of Space Shuttle Columbia. The mission was launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on January 16, 2003.

The most recent loss of spacesuit was Unit 17, during the crash of the SpaceX-7 cargo mission. The exact cost of replacing this unit is unknown, but estimates range up to $US250 million. For the other 11 suits, the damage increases, with seven in various stages of repair and maintenance. Leaving only four spacesuits ready to fly on the International Space Station.

Here's the astronaut spacesuit that has evolved over six decades:

Mercury Suit (1961-1963)

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Mercury Suit adalah penanda bagi astronaut AS berkelana ke orbit di sekitar Bumi. Pakaian itu merupakan hasil pengembangan NASA atas pakaian pilot pesawat jet Angkatan Laut AS.

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NASA introduced Project Mercury on April 9, 1959, just six months after the agency was founded. Known as the Mercury Seven or Original Seven, they are (front row, left to right) Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr., Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, John H. Glenn Jr., M. Scott Carpenter, (back row ) Alan B. Shepard Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.

To protect the first astronauts from sudden pressure losses, the Mercury Suit has a nylon lining covered with neoprene on the inside and nylon on the outside to keep the inside temperature stable. Six astronauts flew into space wearing the outfits as before NASA pulled it off the mission.

Gemini Suit (1965-1966)

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Gemini Suit is NASA's second space program and one with more ambitious goals. The Gemini capsule carries a crew of two astronauts into space and has one mission lasting two weeks.

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Astronaut Thomas P. Stafford, the pilot, is seen aboard the Gemini VI spacecraft in the White Room aboard Pad 19 before closing the hatch during the pre-launch countdown.

David Clark's company designed the Gemini suit to be flexible when pressed and took the extra step of making it more comfortable than the Mercury Suit. The 16 to 34-pound outfits can be connected to portable air conditioners to keep astronauts cool until they can connect to the spacecraft's path.

Gemini Spacewalk Suit (1965-1966)

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The Gemini Spacewalk Suit called G4C was designed with space in mind. Astronauts can open hatches during voyages and work in a vacuum.

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Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, the lead crew pilot of the Gemini XII space flight, undergoes evaluation procedures with the Astronaut Maneuver Unit in the 30-foot-altitude space at McDonnell Aircraft. The Astronaut Maneuver Unit was later removed from the mission.

To withstand the pressure, the suits connected the astronauts to the spacecraft via hoses that supplied oxygen. However, some variants are known to have problems setting up to use for 30 minutes. The heaviest variant of the outfit weighs in at around 34 pounds.

Apollo Spacewalk Suit (1967-1975)

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The Apollo Spacewalk Suit was designed to protect astronauts from fine regolith (dust as sharp as glass) while walking on the moon. The suit is also claimed to protect astronauts from the sun's extreme temperatures, is more flexible when it comes to picking up moonstones, and survives the long hours of spacecraft.

The outfit's capabilities are created by layers of cloth and thick boots, as well as a complex life support system. The outfit weighs more than 180 pounds when on Earth and only one-sixth in the moon's weaker gravitational field.

First Space Shuttle Flight Suit (1981)

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The First Space Shuttle Flight Suit is a modified Mercury Suit spacesuit for astronauts on the Space Transport System-1 mission, the first orbital spacecraft of NASA's space shuttle program.

There is no special specialization of the outfit because on that mission the astronauts don't roam around in space.

Extravehicular Mobility Unit (1983-present)

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The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) is designed for astronauts when maintaining satellites as well as building and maintaining the International Space Station (ISS). The 14-layer pressurized suit can survive the void of space and keep astronauts alive for more than eight hours. It can weigh nearly 320 pounds in Earth's gravity.

NASA is also testing a jetpack-like device for the EMU, called the Maneuvering Unit, which allows astronauts to fly freely and untethered. The folks inside the ISS today use an advanced version of the EMU to defend the space station.

In fact, NASA's first female spacewalk was postponed because the space station only had one medium-sized outfit. This milestone was finally reached when NASA sent a medium-torso shell to fit a larger suit.

NASA has invested about a quarter billion dollars in developing the xEMU suit for its Artemis program, which plans to bring humans back to the lunar surface by 2024, with the goal of eventually going to Mars. With their destination drawing near and the number of spacesuits dwindling, NASA engineers face a race to develop a new type of suit.

The components of the spacesuit that you use must also keep the suit in good shape and make it easy to move. An example is a carbon dioxide sensor. The design used by the current setting is a heritage design, some of its components are no longer produced. Some of the vendors that make these components don't even exist anymore. So the CO2 sensor is a great example of a component where a replacement design that will work for the existing setting and the new setting will essentially be a compatible drop-in replacement.

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Spacesuits are packed with complex components. But the most expensive part is debatable. The most expensive component of a spacesuit is the gloves. Gloves are the most complicated because astronauts need them for manual dexterity to do meaningful work in space. There's a pulley and rope system that holds them together and then, on the outside of the glove, there's a heat radiator system that allows astronauts to keep their hands warm. In the end, however, pressure clothing, including gloves, is actually less expensive than a life support system. The backpack worn on the back is a very solid set of technologies that do everything from maintaining temperature to removing carbon dioxide and continuously applying pressure inside the space suit, and in the end, some of those components are each more expensive than most of the others. , like a glove. But also an expertly designed suit can go wrong. In 2013, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano reported that his helmet was starting to fill with water. Nearly 1.5 liters of water leaked into his helmet, threatening to sink Parmitano in the middle of a spacewalk. But considering NASA's Apollo-era spacesuit allowed 12 humans to walk on the moon 50 years ago and considering the Space Shuttle-era outfits have been used in more than 100 years. 200 space trips, is it really necessary to invest heavily in a new spacesuit?

If the mission of the astronauts to go to Mars is different from walking on the moon. Different environments & have different dangers. So when choosing a task for an astronaut, of course, you have to take into account, do you want the astronaut to be able to walk, bend over, pick up things, or carry something? This requires a special design for comfort when carrying out missions. Some components and some design concepts are no longer up to the mark. In terms of quantity and distribution of crew members that need to be adjusted. By involving more companies, many companies compete, and innovate to lower production prices. In an effort to develop technology at a lower cost, NASA often sets out design and innovation challenges, sometimes partnering with bona fide designers or companies.

Peter Homer and Ted Southern tested their prototype during the 2009 NASA Astronaut Glove Challenge, held November 19 at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida, near NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

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2009 Astronaut Glove Challenge winners Ted Southern (left) and Peter Homer with their gloves on.Inventor Peter Homer, left, participates in a test of dexterity and flexibility during the 2009 NASA Astronaut Glove Challenge at the Astronaut Hall of Fame near Kennedy Space Center, FloridInventor Peter Homer, left, participates in a test of dexterity and flexibility during the 2009 NASA Astronaut Glove Challenge at the Astronaut Hall of Fame near Kennedy Space Center, Florida

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Inventor Peter Homer, left, participates in a test of dexterity and flexibility during the 2009 NASA Astronaut Glove Challenge at the Astronaut Hall of Fame near Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

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ILC Dover representatives monitor how much internal pressure the newly designed gloves can withstand during the explosion test. Image credit

In the 2009 Astronaut Glove Challenge Competition, Ted Southern bagged the second prize of $US100,000. He and his partner, Nikolay Moiseev, a leading Russian spacesuit engineer, won for Final Frontier Design.

Ted Southern as a business partner with NASA that was formed about 10 years ago, and has worked closely with NASA to work on EVA clothing components says:

  • "NASA is our largest customer, and we've delivered prototype components, including glove, elbow, shoulder, parts, and cut assemblies. But for the last two years, we've focused on putting the system together."Ted Southern *

While Final Frontier plans to build its own EVA suit, it's much cheaper than NASA's. Flight suit with the same requirements as NASA's. The clothes are made with the same materials as the clothes used by NASA. Very old space suit expensive. Suit developments will eventually run into the millions of dollars, with the suit EVA systems likely to be worth around $US2 million each. Although NASA hasn't officially released the unit prices of the new xEMU suits, it's safe to say that their costs will be much higher. If Final Frontier takes the NASA suit designs it currently has, and reproduces them, will cost between $US15 million and $US25 million per unit. But the designs being developed today with xEMU don't just fall in that range. They believe that competition and innovation will drive lower unit costs.

How does NASA's spacesuit cost compare to other countries?

Russia has an EMU suit called Orlan. Like NASA, it also has four suits on the space station. But it also has reserved, both at the Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, and at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

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The only Soviet/Russian spacesuit on display at Space Center Houston, the Orlan spacesuit (sea eagle in Russian) was developed by Soviet (now Russia) aerospace contractor NPP Zvezd

According to Nikolay Moiseev, who is one of the few engineers working at NASA (America) and Orlan (Russia) EMUs, unlike NASA, Roscosmos is constantly developing new generations of spacesuits. Moiseev personally participated in the development of five generations of Russian spacesuits and estimates that 24 were built between 1997 and 2002, with another 24 made between 2002 and 2019. Roscosmos is also developing a new EVA suit for the moon landing mission, by 2030.

With Russian technology in EVA suit development compared to NASA's EMU suit aging, there will be more opportunities for private companies like Final Frontier to commercially develop spacesuit technology at lower prices.

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NASA astronauts Doug Hurley (foreground) and Bob Behnken give a thumbs up from inside the Crew Dragon capsule ahead of the Demo-2 launch on May 30, 2020.

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Astronauts Doug Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken in their SpaceX spacesuits at Launch Pad 39A with their Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft in the background before launch. The SpaceX pressure suits are designed to keep astronauts safe in the spacecraft and not for spacewalks.

In 2017, Elon Musk revealed the SpaceX IVA spacesuit. While this intravehicular suit is only for use aboard the spacecraft, the 3D-printed helmet and tailor-made outfit are a glimpse into the future of spacesuits.

 

The question is whether the need for spacesuits can be cheaper, or is space exploration inevitably expensive?

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