A Houston based private astronaut training company has taken their mission one step further by partnering with a design firm to create spacesuits that will make the earth-bound training facility even more like space.
Waypoint 2 Space, a Nevada corporation with headquarters located in the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX offers several different astronaut training programs for civilians. Currently they are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign entitled "Spacewalking on Earth" to raise funds to build a state-of-the-art space simulator. At this point, the space station training module at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston is only available to astronauts affiliated with NASA and its space program. That simulator is a large space station unit that is submerged in a giant pool. Waypoint's goal is to build one that is similar.
Waypoint is the only domestic company developing fully comprehensive and immersive space training programs for Pre-Sub-Orbital, Sub-Orbital and Orbital training. The team assembled by Waypoint consists of the same individuals who developed training programs for NASA astronauts and Air Force pilots. At present, there is a waiting list for their 12 week Orbital training program.
The Kickstarter campaign has so far raised almost $9,000 dollars toward the total of $83,000 they need to build the training simulator. Waypoint has said that their simulator will be a very large dark room, with the ability to move both horizontally and vertically. In addition there will be star formations projected on the walls so that trainees will be in an atmosphere very much like that of space.
In order to train effectively, Waypoint engineers felt that students in the program should have actual spacesuits with the same kinds of equipment that NASA astronauts use. After looking at several possibilities, Waypoint has decided to partner with Final Frontier Designs, a spacesuit company based in Brooklyn, NY.
"Our experts looked at several excellent space suit designs along with ways to incorporate these life support systems into our core Pre-Sub-Orbital program," said Dr. Kelly Soich, director of programs and chief payload specialist for Waypoint. "In the end, FFD presented an innovative solution, embodying the core efforts of commercial space and providing us the capability to maximize spaceflight training for a large segment of the population."
Ted Southern and Nikolay Moiseev, who used their winnings in the 2009 NASA Space Glove Challenge, founded final Frontier Designs. Moiseev was the lead designer for spacesuits for Research & Development Production Enterprise Zvezda for twenty years. The company also offers clients a "spacesuit experience" where anyone can suit up in an actual pressurized spacesuit and move around.
"Waypoint to Space embodies a forward-looking, ambitious, 21st century space-training doctrine, one which embraces high-technology solutions and maintains cost-effective infrastructure, while most importantly, opening outer space to the public," Southern, Final Frontier's president, said in a statement. "We are excited to participate in the future with them."
The Kickstarter campaign for the space station wrapped up on November 8, 2014. After that, the company hopes to have the space station ready for amateur space walkers by March 2015.