The movie-star look to SpaceX’s new spacesuits is just one of the innovative features the Crew Dragon astronauts enjoyed during the Demo-2 test flight to the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were the first humans to wear the suits in space during their mission, which began May 30 with a flawless launch from Florida â€” the first human spaceflight from the region since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.
How things have changed since then. Instead of the old-school “pumpkin suit” launch suits Behnken and Hurley wore multiple times for space shuttle missions, this time the veteran astronauts were decked in all-white SpaceX suits for their rocket ride to orbit.
“I bet you we’ve donned and offed those suits a couple hundred times,” Hurley said during a press conference June 1 from on board the space station. The SpaceX spacesuits were custom-made for the astronauts and thus used extensively during training for the Demo-2 mission.Â
Because the spacesuits were fitted to the astronauts’ individual body types, Hurley added, “they were actually much easier to get in and out of in zero G,” or weightlessness, compared to the pumpkin suits, which were also called the Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES). ACES and the SpaceX spacesuits are not designed for spacewalks â€” just for backup during launches and landings.
“We’d have to get the suits a five-star rating,” Behnken added during the discussion about the SpaceX suits. He pointed to some of the primary functions of the spacesuit, which is to protect the astronauts in case of fire or depressurization aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.Â
“These suits didn’t have to do that job for us, which was nice. But it was clear that they were ready,” he said.
Both astronauts thanked the ground crews for their work in developing the spacesuits, which was done to very closely tune the spacesuits to the functionality of Crew Dragon. The gloves were designed to work with the spacecraft touchscreens, and the spacesuits were made to plug into seat umbilicals carrying oxygen and cool air from the spacecraft.Â
“One of the things that was important in the development of the suit was to make it easy to use, something that the crew just literally has to plug in when they sit down, and the suit takes care of things from there,” said Chris Trigg, SpaceX’s spacesuits and crew equipment manager, in a May 27 video SpaceX posted to Twitter.
The spacesuit has been tested in space before, just to make sure it was ready for humans. A version flew on the Tesla-driving dummy SpaceX launched towards Mars orbit in 2018, and another spacesuit decked thee dummy Ripley that flew aboard the uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 test flight to the space station in 2019.