NASA is set to unveil their design for the new Z-2 spacesuit for deep-space exploration. Astronauts will soon encounter unprecedented environments in space and NASA wants to insure their safety and effectiveness. The final stage of the design project for the new Z-2 spacesuit is selecting design from three prototypes. NASA is asking the public to make this final decision by voting on their favorite design. The online poll is open until 11:59pm EDT on Tuesday, April 15.
NASA says all three options for the latest Z-series spacesuit, “will incorporate a number of technology advances to shorten preparation time, improve safety and boost astronaut capabilities during spacewalks and surface activities.”
The three suit options are called “Biomimicry,” “Technology,” and “Trends in Society.” Each suit performs the same functions but is distinct in aesthetic design. Whichever design is selected by the public the Z-2 spacesuit will include many advancements in spacesuit capability. According to NASA:
“First surface-specific planetary mobility suit to be tested in full vacuum; first use of 3D human laser scans and 3D-printed hardware for suit development and sizing; most advanced use of impact resistant composite structures on a suit upper and lower torso system; first integration of the suit-port concept with a hard upper torso suit structure; most conformal and re-sizeable hard upper torso suit built to date.”
The Z-2 spacesuit will not be used in space flights by NASA astronauts just yet. This futuristic spacesuit is still in the prototype stage.
According to ABC News, “NASA expects the final Z-2 suit to be built by November this year. It will then undergo rigorous testing in a number of harsh environments, including in a vacuum chamber, a huge indoor pool and at a large rock yard that mimics the surface of Mars.”
“We will be conducting multiple vacuum chamber tests, including one series at full vacuum, mimicking the lack of atmosphere found in outer space,” NASA says. “The suit will be tested at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL), the huge indoor pool NASA uses to train every astronaut in the technique of spacewalking. Further testing at a rocky Martian surface analog site at the Johnson Space Center along with other settings will help us evaluate mobility, comfort and performance of the suit.”
“The cover layer of a non-flight suit, which is used for ground-based testing, serves as abrasion/snag protection, a cover for technical details, and to a lesser extent, aesthetics,” NASA reports. “For a flight suit which is actually used for a spacewalk, the cover layer performs many other important functions such as micrometeorite, thermal and radiation protection.”
The Z-2 spacesuit will replace the Z-1 suit. The Z-2 includes a hard composite upper torso, which the Z-1 does not, for the long-term durability that a planetary spacesuit will require The Z-2’s shoulder and hip designs offer increased mobility, its boots are more advanced, and its components are more compatible with a full vacuum environment.
I can’t wait to try one of these things on. But I dream.