NASA’s Next Prototype Spacesuit has a Brand New Look, and it’s All Thanks to You.

Next-Prototype-Spacesuit

Compared to the Z-1 spacesuit, the Z-2 has a number of key advantages, with the most significant being that the Z-1 had a soft upper torso and the Z-2 has a hard composite upper torso.

NASA’s Z-2 Spacesuit design challenge has determined a winner, and with 233,431 votes, the “Technology” grabbed just over 63 percent of the total vote. The chosen design will be integrated into the final version of the suit, which is expected to be testing-ready by November 2014.

NASA’s Z-2 spacesuit is the newest prototype in its next-generation spacesuit platform, the Z-series. With the agency focused on a path to Mars, the effort to grow the technologies astronauts one day will use to live and work on Mars has already begun. Each successive generation of the Z-series will advance new technologies that will one day be used in a suit worn by the first humans to step foot on the Red Planet.

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Compared to the Z-1 spacesuit, the Z-2 has a number of key advantages, with the most significant being that the Z-1 had a soft upper torso and the Z-2 has a hard composite upper torso. The composite hard upper torso offers the resilience that a planetary Extravehicular Activity (EVA) suit will require. The shoulder and hip joints differ considerably 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.

Finally, 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. Using the Z-2, NASA will use cover layer design elements, such as electroluminescent wiring, never used before in a spacesuit.

In addition to the typical fit checks and mobility evaluations, NASA at present is planning a comprehensive test campaign for the Z-2 suit. Engineers will carry out multiple vacuum chamber tests, including one series at full vacuum, mimicking the lack of atmosphere found in space.

The suit will be tested at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, the enormous indoor pool used to train astronauts to spacewalk. Additional testing at a site at Johnson that imitates the rocky Martian surface will help evaluate the suit’s mobility, comfort and performance. In the end, all of these tests will guide engineers in designing the Z-3.

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Source | ScienceRecorder