NASA Reveals Its Next Generation Spacesuit
With 233,431 votes, the “Technology” option has won NASA’s Z-2 Spacesuit design challenge with just over 63% of the total vote. This design now will be incorporated into the final version of the suit, which is expected to be ready for testing by November 2014.
There are many key advances to be found in the Z-2 suit when compared to the previous Z-1. The most significant is that the Z-1 had a soft upper torso and the Z-2 has a hard composite upper torso. This composite hard upper torso provides the much-needed long-term durability that a planetary Extravehicular Activity (EVA) suit will require. The shoulder and hip joints differ significantly based on extensive evaluations performed during the last two years with the Z-1 to look at different ways of optimizing mobility of these complex joints. Lastly, the boots are much closer in nature to those that would be found on a suit ready for space, and the materials used on the Z-2 are compatible with a full-vacuum environment.
Because the Z-series is still in the prototype, or non-flight, phase, the design won’t be making a trip to space. The cover layer of a non-flight suit still performs an important function in ground-based testing. The cover protects the lower layers and technical details from abrasion and snags during testing. It also serves to provide the suit with an aesthetic appeal. The cover layer on flight suits used for spacewalks performs many other important functions like protecting the spacewalker from micrometeorite strikes, the extreme temperatures in space and the harmful effects of radiation.