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When SpaceX set out to fly humans onboard its spacecraft, it decided to create its spacesuit in-house in Hawthorne, California, in the same building as SpaceX's rockets. Spacesuits are essentially complex, personalized, human-shaped spacecraft — they must be comfortable for the astronauts to wear during long flights inside small spacecraft while protecting them from changes in oxygen levels and pressure.
SpaceX is a privately owned company founded by Elon while NASA is a government-owned and funded organization which means there will be some differences in their operations. And of course, there will be differences in their spacesuits, although the primary function of spacesuits is the same which is to protect crew members from depressurization, where air is lost from the capsule, and also ensure astronauts have sufficient oxygen and regulate their temperature. So in this video, we‘ll look into how SpaceX spacesuit differs from NASA spacesuits down the years.
The first difference long-time space watchers will notice about SpaceX spacesuits is that they are not the orange "pumpkin" flight suits astronauts used to wear during the launch phase of shuttle flights managed by NASA. The SpaceX spacesuits are a cool, one-piece white design, and much sleeker than the bulky space shuttle launch suits, which were also known as the Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES). The Musk suits have darker panels down the sides to visually taper and mold the torso, squared-off shoulder lines, aerodynamic seams from collarbone to the knee, and matching knee-high superhero boots. They do not have the dangling hoses, knobs, and wires of the traditional suits.
Elon Musk likes doing things that stand out and can make a statement on its own. Musk wanted the suits to stand out, so he took a very different approach from most spacesuit projects, including those at NASA, which typically involve tapping outside specialist contractors with a long history of experience to help with the work. Musk simply went to that source rather than to the usual contractors. Musk tapped Jose Fernandez, a costume designer for superhero movies such as ‘Batman vs Superman,’ ‘The Fantastic Four,’ ‘The Avengers,’ ‘X-Men II,’ among others, to create a prototype.
Invited to be one of six to try out for the job, Fernandez created a helmet, although he had only two weeks, he ended up working with Musk for six months to design the suit, which was later reverse engineered to meet space travel requirements. Musk has focused on the appearance of SpaceX's suits since the company began designing them several years ago. "I spent a lot of time — it took almost four years to design these suits that both look good and work well," Musk said.
Musk wanted the suits to stand out. When people put this space suit on, he wants them to look better than they did without it, like a tux. So the tuxedo associations are not an accident. He wanted the astronauts to look heroic in it.
Fernandez said that during the design process, Musk “kept saying, ‘Anyone looks better in a tux, no matter what size or shape they are.” So what the SpaceX suits evoke most of all is James Bond’s tuxedo if it were redesigned by Tony Stark as an upgrade for James T. Kirk’s next big adventure. Streamlined, graphic, and articulated, the suits are more a part of the pop-culture-Comic-Con continuum of space style than the NASA continuum. It’s little wonder, given that the prototype was created by Fernandez alongside Musk.
The SpaceX suit was worn by NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on their launch to the International Space Station aboard Dragon, and each one of the suits is tailored to the crew member. They're designed to be a single piece, with specialized parts.
International Latex Corporation—ILC has been the primary supplier of spacesuits for NASA since the dawn of Apollo. ILC is the maker of Playtex bras and girdles. Seamstresses went from sewing undergarments to stitching together thin layers of high-tech fabric on their noisy Singer sewing machines.
SpaceX spacesuit is different from the ones worn on spacewalks outside the space station which makes it different from NASA suits. The suits are just designed for use inside the SpaceX spacecraft capsule, known as the Crew Dragon. They are meant to protect against the dangers of launch, including brief periods of vacuum or high heat, but not outer space. SpaceX suit was made easy to use, something that the crew just has to plug in when they sit down, and then the suit kind of takes care of itself from there. For the spacewalk outside the space station, the astronauts use NASA's Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMU), which are designed to work for eight to 10 hours in full vacuum-like space and protect astronauts from dangerous radiation.
NASA spacesuits such as the one designed for the Apollo program had boots made to walk on rocky ground. The Apollo suits also had a life support system.
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