The developers of a next-generation NASA spacesuit recently reached a key design milestone, the space agency reported on Monday.
Collins Aerospace is building the new suit for spacewalks outside the International Space Station (ISS), and it has now successfully tested its fit and functionality in a microgravity-like environment during an airplane flight.
NASA shared footage (below) of the test, which shows the spacesuit being worn during brief periods of weightlessness created by an aircraft performing roller-coaster-like maneuvers. The footage shows the spacesuit wearer simulating crucial maneuvers similar to those conducted by astronauts aboard the ISS, such as climbing through a hatch.
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NASA described the test as a “key step” in its preliminary design review process to ensure that it meets all system requirements before manufacturing the suits begins.
“The test allowed us to examine specific objectives of the design that can support a broad range of crewmember sizes and crew tasks in a controlled environment,” said Peggy Guirgis, general manager of space systems at Collins Aerospace.
The team will continue to test the next-gen spacesuit in a vacuum chamber to gather more data on how well it performs in a space-like atmosphere.
It will also be tested in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a 40-foot-deep, water-filled pool at the space agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which simulates a microgravity environment for spacewalk training.
“This next-generation spacesuit is designed to advance NASA’s spacewalking capabilities in low Earth orbit,” the agency said on its website on Monday. “It is being developed to support station maintenance and operations as NASA and its international partners continue carrying out scientific research that benefits humanity and demonstrates new technologies for future human and robotic missions.”
The suit currently used by ISS astronauts for spacewalks has remained largely unchanged in the station’s lifetime of more than 20 years. While it’s performed well over the years, NASA wants to build something lighter and more comfortable that uses the latest technology.