It's no secret that NASA's having some trouble with their stockpile of space suits, and that’s mainly why NASA astronauts don’t go on spacewalks very often. The current supply of space suits at U.S. astronaut disposal is aging, and the more we use them, the more they break down. They’re expensive to repair or replace, and unfortunately, that’s not within NASA’s budget right now.
In what seems like a timely response by SpaceX, the commercial space company just unveiled their new space suit design.
Image Credit: Elon Musk/Instagram
Not only does it look like something right out of a science fiction movie, but CEO Elon Musk says that suits aren’t just prototypes – they’re fully functional!
On Instagram, Musk writes: “First picture of SpaceX spacesuit. More in days to follow. Worth noting that this actually works (not a mockup). Already tested to double vacuum pressure. Was incredibly hard to balance aesthetics and function. Easy to do either separately.”
Related: Here's how a space suit works
Although the suits haven’t been to space yet, SpaceX engineers tested them at more than twice the vacuum pressure that astronauts would experience while in the field.
Making the suit look this cool while keeping it fully functional was no easy feat. Nevertheless, Musk regularly pushes the boundaries of both design and function in his companies, including Tesla. In short, you should expect these results any time you see his name in the news.
The spacesuit isn’t a complete replacement for NASA’s EVA space suit, but it would allow astronauts safe passage while traveling inside of a Dragon (or other) capsule. That said, it's not intended for use during spacewalks and other extravehicular activities on the International Space Station.
Astronauts are required to wear space suits in these critical transportation moments because every spacecraft has the potential to malfunction and depressurize. The space suit is an astronaut's last line of defense if that happens, potentially saving their lives.
It should be interesting to learn when astronauts can start sporting the super-classy new space suit. Perhaps NASA should call upon SpaceX to design future EVA space suits to replace the aging stockpile we still use today.
Additional pictures are expected to surface on SpaceX’s channels later this week.