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Astronaut Spacesuit

NSR’s newly released(April 2022)  Moon Market Analysis, 2nd Edition (MMA2) finds a developing moon market positioned to generate $105 Billion over the next decade. “The foundations of a future lunar economy are being laid as governments aim to put feet back on the Moon. 250+ missions are set to launch over the coming decade; however, early market challenges still remain to be overcome,” notes report co-author Hussain Bokhari. “Mission timelines continue to shift right while many needed technologies are still in development.”

 

A large number of space agencies have committed to landing humans on Mars, as well as the research of permanent settlements on the Red Planet. These agencies include public ones like NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, and ISRO, as well as private organizations such as SpaceX, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

 

Nasa has previously said that it aims to get the first humans to Mars somewhere between 2030 and 2040. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has the financial clout to reach Earth’s next door neighbour and is aiming to get people to the Red Planet by around 2030, with the first people there being tasked with beginning to build a new civilisation.

 

From low Earth orbit to planetary bodies, space is a harsh environment with atomic oxygen, radiation, high-speed impactors, and extreme temperature cycling. Outside the protection of the Earth’s atmosphere, radiation levels increase. Charged particle radiation includes protons and electrons with a wide range of energies. Temperatures shift from high to low as an orbiting device moves into the sunlight or behind the Earth’s shadow. For example, NASA’s Orion spacecraft designed to travel outside the moon’s orbit will experience temperatures ranging from -101 to 288 degrees Celsius (-150 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit). Hardware exposed to space must withstand all aspects of the space environment. This includes vacuum, thermal cycling, charged particle radiation, ultraviolet radiation, and in some environments, plasma effects and atomic oxygen.

 

A spacesuit is a garment worn by astronauts to protect them from the extreme environment in space. The harmful radiations in space can affect the human body and cause hypothermia and heat strokes. It protects the astronauts from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and maintains the exact air pressure and atmospheric environment for respiration. Spacesuits play a vital role while traveling in adverse weather conditions where the oxygen level is very low.

 

Modern space suits augment the basic pressure garment with a complex system of equipment and environmental systems designed to keep the wearer comfortable, and to minimize the effort required to bend the limbs, resisting a soft pressure garment’s natural tendency to stiffen against the vacuum. A self-contained oxygen supply and environmental control system is frequently employed to allow complete freedom of movement, independent of the spacecraft.

 

Space suits are often worn inside spacecraft as a safety precaution in case of loss of cabin pressure, and are necessary for extravehicular activity (EVA), work done outside spacecraft. Three types of space suits exist for different purposes: IVA (intravehicular activity), EVA (extravehicular activity), and IEVA (intra/extravehicular activity). Space suits have been worn for such work in Earth orbit, on the surface of the Moon, and en route back to Earth from the Moon.

 

IVA suits are meant to be worn inside a pressurized spacecraft and are therefore lighter and more comfortable. EVA suits, such as the EMU, are necessary for various extravehicular activities. such as spacewalks, satellite repair, and other exterior operations. They must protect the wearer against all conditions of space, as well as provide mobility and functionality.  Environmental protection, movement, communications, and life support are all provided by the extravehicular mobility unit (EMU) suits. Spacewalking astronauts face radiation, dust, debris, and extreme temperatures. Temperatures on spacewalks may vary from as cold as minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit to as hot as 250 degrees in the sunlight. The suits provide the proper pressure for the body and supply astronauts with water to drink and oxygen to breathe.

 

IEVA suits are meant for use inside and outside spacecraft, such as the Gemini G4C suit. They include more protection from the harsh conditions of space, such as protection from micrometeoroids and extreme temperature change.

 

Existing spacesuits need to be upgraded. In Aug 2022, a Russian cosmonaut experienced a rare spacesuit problem, resulting in the mission control ordering him to come back to the International Space Station’s airlock. The issue was experienced by Oleg Artemyev’s suit. Although there isn’t clarity on what really went wrong with the suit, according to NASA commentators, a slight fluctuation was noted in the suit’s battery power. The power interruption or low batteries for a spacesuit is crucial for crewmembers, and it would first have the cosmonaut to lose his communications to Mission Control, then it may result to fan failure. Losing the fans in the suit would no longer ensure air circulation inside, causing the cosmonaut to have trouble breathing.

 

The aging shuttle-era spacesuits aboard the International Space Station have been declared “no-go” for operational, normally planned spacewalks, pending analysis to determine what led to excess water getting into an astronaut’s helmet during a March excursion, officials confirmed in May 2022. Water intrusion has been a source of concern ever since a July 2013 spacewalk in which European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano’s helmet flooded with water, a frightening, potentially life-threatening malfunction that forced an early end to the excursion.

 

Requirements

Modern space suits augment the basic pressure garment with a complex system of equipment and environmental systems designed to keep the wearer comfortable, and to minimize the effort required to bend the limbs, resisting a soft pressure garment’s natural tendency to stiffen against the vacuum. A self-contained oxygen supply and environmental control system is frequently employed to allow complete freedom of movement, independent of the spacecraft.

A space suit must perform several functions to allow its occupant to work safely and comfortably, inside or outside a spacecraft. It must provide:

A stable internal pressure. This can be less than Earth’s atmosphere, as there is usually no need for the space suit to carry nitrogen (which comprises about 78% of Earth’s atmosphere and is not used by the body). Lower pressure allows for greater mobility, but requires the suit occupant to breathe pure oxygen for a time before going into this lower pressure, to avoid decompression sickness.

Mobility. Movement is typically opposed by the pressure of the suit; mobility is achieved by careful joint design. See the Theories of space suit design section.

Supply of breathable oxygen and elimination of carbon dioxide; these gases are exchanged with the spacecraft or a Portable Life Support System (PLSS)

Temperature regulation. Unlike on Earth, where heat can be transferred by convection to the atmosphere, in space, heat can be lost only by thermal radiation or by conduction to objects in physical contact with the exterior of the suit. Since the temperature on the outside of the suit varies greatly between sunlight and shadow, the suit is heavily insulated, and air temperature is maintained at a comfortable level.

A communication system, with external electrical connection to the spacecraft or PLSS Means of collecting and containing solid and liquid bodily waste (such as a Maximum Absorbency Garment)

 

Additional requirements for EVA include:

Shielding against ultraviolet radiation
Limited shielding against particle radiation
Means to maneuver, dock, release, and tether onto a spacecraft
Protection against small micrometeoroids, some traveling at up to 27,000 kilometers per hour, provided by a puncture-resistant Thermal Micrometeoroid Garment, which is the outermost layer of the suit. Experience has shown the greatest chance of exposure occurs near the gravitational field of a moon or planet, so these were first employed on the Apollo lunar EVA suits

 

The hard vacuum of space with its pressures below 10−4 Pa (10−6 Torr) causes some materials to outgas, which in turn affects any spacecraft component with a line-of-sight to the emitting material. Charged particle radiation, along with ultraviolet radiation can cause cross-linking (hardening) and chain scission (weakening) of polymers, darkening and color center formation in windows and optics, and single event upsets in electronics.

 

The spacesuit is composed of ortho-fabric, neoprene-coated nylon, aluminized mylar, urethane-coated nylon, high-strength composite materials, and stainless steel. Growth in space exploration missions and increase in awareness of space programs are the factors anticipated to boost the growth of the astronaut spacesuit market during the forecast period.

 

The two main parts of a spacewalk spacesuit are the pressure garment and the life support system.

The pressure garment is the human shaped portion of the spacesuit that protects the body and enables mobility. The primary components of the pressure garment are the cooling garment, upper torso, lower torso and helmet.

 

Cooling Garment

The first piece of a spacesuit that astronauts put on is a special cooling garment made of a stretchy spandex material and water tubes. About 300 feet of tubes are woven into this tight-fitting piece of clothing that covers the entire body except for the head, hands and feet. Chilled water flows through the tubes near the spacewalker’s skin to regulate body temperature and remove extra heat during the spacewalk, which typically lasts multiple hours. Vents in the garment draw sweat away from the astronaut’s body and help with circulation inside the spacesuit garment.

 

Hard Upper Torso

The hard upper torso is lightweight but strong and connects the inside of the suit with the appropriate systems in the portable life support system. It is shaped like a sleeveless shirt and connects to the arm assembly that covers the arms and joins the gloves. The upper torso of the new exploration suits will have a rear-entry hatch to allow astronauts to climb into the back of the suit.

 

Gloves

Astronauts must be able to work with and pick up objects while wearing spacesuit gloves. Gloves protect astronauts from the space environment and are made so spacewalkers can move their fingers as easily as possible. The fingers are the part of the body that gets coldest in space, and the gloves on spacesuits are equipped with heaters to keep fingers warm while still allowing dexterity to use tools.

 

Lower Torso

The lower section of the suit is made up of spacesuit pants, boots and the lower half of the waist closure. A piece called the waist bearing helps the astronaut move and turn. A metal body-seal closure connects the lower torso to the hard upper torso. On the new suits that will be used for lunar surface missions, the lower torso includes advanced materials and joint interfaces that allow bending and rotating at the hips, bending at the knees, and hiking-style boots. With this new mobility, astronauts will be able to walk on the lunar surface, instead of doing the “bunny-hop” developed by Apollo moonwalkers.

 

Layers

The flexible parts of the suit are made from as many as 16 layers of material. The layers perform different functions, from keeping oxygen within the spacesuit to protecting from space dust. Closest to the astronaut’s skin, the cooling garment makes up the first three layers. On top of this garment is the bladder layer that is filled with gas to create proper pressure for the body and holds in the oxygen for breathing. The next layer holds the bladder layer to the correct shape around the astronaut’s body. The ripstop liner is a tear-resistant layer. The next several layers are insulation and act like a thermos to help maintain the temperature inside the suit. The white outer layer reflects heat from the sunlight and is made of a fabric that blends three kinds of threads. One thread provides water resistance, another is the material used to make bullet-proof vests, and the third component is fire-resistant. Some suits are plain white and some have stripes to help tell one spacewalker from another.

 

Life Support System

On the back of the spacesuit is a backpack that houses the supplies and equipment to make the suit work. This backpack contains the oxygen that astronauts breathe and that pressurizes the suit. A regulator in the backpack keeps the suit at the correct pressure. A fan circulates oxygen through the suit and life support system where the carbon dioxide that astronauts exhale is removed from the suit. The backpack provides electricity for the suit and holds a two-way radio for communication. The backpack also contains water for the cooling garment, a chiller to cool the water, and a pump that circulates the chilled water.

 

Communications System

Historically, a communications cap is worn under the astronaut’s helmet that contains earphones and microphones. The cap connects to the radio on the spacesuit and enables the astronaut to talk to other crew members and mission control. The communications cap is sometimes called the Snoopy cap for its resemblance to the aviator cap worn by the cartoon character. The new explorations suit includes an upgraded audio system inside the helmet that does not require the astronaut to wear a cap. The integrated communication system has speakers mounted inside the helmet area and multiple embedded voice-activated microphones that automatically pick up the astronaut’s voice.

Helmet

The helmet on spacesuits built for spacewalks serves as a pressure bubble and is made of strong plastic to keep the pressure of the suit contained. It also has a ventilation system that provides astronauts with oxygen. Helmets also contain a small foam block that astronauts can use to scratch their noses. Outside of this bubble is a protective visor that keeps the pressure bubble from getting bumped or scratched. On top of the protective visor are the sun visor and sun shades. The sun visor has a special gold coating that works like the astronaut’s sunglasses. Together, the movable sun visor and sun shades protect the astronaut from the sun’s strong rays, while still allowing a clear visual field. The helmet on the suits that will be worn for Artemis missions will feature a quick-swap protective visor that protects against the abrasive dirt of planetary bodies. The helmet for these new suits also features an elliptical shape that provides a better view of the ground around the spacewalker’s feet.

 

Astronaut Space Suits Market

Astronaut Space Suits Market was valued at USD 834.4 Million in 2021, and it is expected to reach USD 1210.67 Million by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 6.4 % during the forecast period (2022-2027).

 

The need for a spacesuit is driven by the growing trend of commercial space flight, the development of multifunctional spacesuits, and wearable technologies. Furthermore, as the pace of space exploration missions picks up, so does the manufacture and demand for spacesuits for extravehicular activities, requiring more regional and international enterprises to participate.

 

Increasing investments in deep space human exploration initiatives by countries such as US, China, India, and Russia are expected to boost demand for space suits through the forecast period.

 

Additionally, the incorporation of technology for the construction of new-generation spacesuits with advanced materials for reduced weight and better mobility is propelling the global astronaut spacesuit market, which is expected to produce substantial demand over the forecast period.

 

 

The market is expected to grow rapidly in the next years as new and upgraded spacesuits with advanced materials for low weight and increased mobility are developed.

 

The Global Astronaut Space Suits Market is segmented by type, design and application. Based on type, the market is segmented into IVA Suits and EVA Suits. Based on design, the market is segmented into Soft-suit, Hard-shell suit, Skin-tight suit and Hybrid suit. Based on application, the market is segmented into Intravehicular Activity (IVA) and Extravehicular Activity (EVA). Based on region, the market is segmented into North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East & Africa, and South America.

 

Based on Application, the market is segmented into EVA (Extravehicular Activities) and IVA (Intravehicular Activities). The EVA suits segment currently dominates the Astronaut Space Suits market and is expected to continue its dominance during the forecast period. Extravehicular activities (EVA) are spacewalks done by astronauts for activities such as planetary exploration, satellite maintenance, and other extreme tasks aboard the space station.

 

The Asia-Pacific region of the market is anticipated to have the highest CAGR during the forecast period. The Asia-Pacific countries like China, Japan, and India, among others, are moving ahead with their human space exploration plans to send humans for planetary exploration in the coming years.

 

China, under its human space exploration program, planned to construct and operate a space station in low earth orbit (LEO). The country plans to complete the construction of the space station by 2024. Furthermore, the China National Space Administration also announced to carry out human exploration of the moon by the 2030s. Also, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced to send four astronauts for its human mission planned to be launched in 2022. For this launch, ISRO developed a new spacesuit (prototype unveiled in September 2018) for the astronauts, with one oxygen cylinder carrying capacity.

 

Some of the prominent players in the astronaut space suit market are Collins Aerospace (Raytheon Technologies Corporation), Final Frontier Design, The Boeing Company, David Clark Company, and NPP Zvezda.

Recent Development

 

NASA introduced the xEMU spacesuit for extra-vehicular activities on the moon’s surface in preparation for the 2024 space mission. Additionally, NASA intends to modify and enhance the suits in the future for extra-vehicular activities on Mars’ surface.

In June 2022, NASA announced a new partnership with the industry for new spacewalking and moonwalking services. NASA has selected Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace to provide astronauts with next-generation spacesuit and spacewalk systems to work outside the International Space Station, explore the lunar surface on Artemis missions, and prepare for human missions to Mars.

In June 2022, the Boeing Company unveiled the new Starliner suit that is expected to be used for space missions including EVA applications onboard the space exploration programs scheduled ahead.

In June 2022, Oceaneering International announced that it partnered with Collins Aerospace to jointly develop next-generation extravehicular spacesuits for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The next-gen spacesuits are expected to allow astronauts to work outside the International Space Station, explore the lunar surface on Artemis missions, and prepare for human missions to Mars.

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/spacewalk-spacesuit-basics

About Rajesh Uppal

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