Virgin Group CEO Sir Richard Branson isn’t channelling his favourite Star Trek character (think Captain James T Kirk) but launching the first fashionable and comfy Virgin Galactic spacewear.
Branson, founder of space tourism brand Virgin Galactic, was in New York to show off the results of the collaboration with US clothing business Under Armour – the first clothing line for space travel.
It was quite an event with dancers wearing the spacesuits inside a zero-gravity simulation chamber. Branson donned his own spacesuit, which he plans to wear as Virgin Galactic’s first passenger after the company finishes its test flights. In August Virgin Galactic revealed its arrival and departure lounge at Spaceport America in New Mexico and Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered spaceship VSS Unity has made two test flights to the edge of space – most recently in February.
“Virgin Galactic gave us an exciting challenge to build the world’s first commercial spacesuit,” said Kevin Plank. “Innovation is at the core of everything we do and our team delivered a unique twist on the classic spacesuit utilising both existing and new UA technologies to define space gear for the future. It is an incredible opportunity to showcase our key performance innovations in space at the highest level and continue to push the limits of human performance.”
Under Armour consulted doctors, astronaut trainers, pilots, apparel and footwear designers, engineers and Future Astronaut customers, to fully understand and address all requirements.
Spacesuits will be personally tailored for each astronaut. While immediately identifying wearers as astronauts and as part of a mission, the spacesuits also provide differentiated features that recognise and celebrate each astronaut’s personal journey. Country flags and name badges build on traditions of the past, while suit pockets dedicated to personal effects include an inside transparent pocket for photographs of loved ones, who will literally be close to the heart.
“Spacesuits are a part of the iconography of the first space age; our visual impressions of human spaceflight and what astronauts wear are inextricably linked,” said Branson. Requirements for astronaut spacewear as we enter the second space age are evolving, but the design challenge has not diminished. We were delighted when Kevin and Under Armour stepped up to this task and they have surpassed our expectations. I love the way the spacewear looks and I love the way it feels. I also love the fact that the next time I put it on, I will be on my way to space.”
Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor at Virgin Galactic, has tested the Under Armour spacewear.
“Both in my flight and in mock up testing and training, I discussed how harnesses lay on the suit, and where we might add padding or avoid seams so that the whole thing works well.
In every way possible, the suit and the seat and the ship should get out of the way and just support the experience. It’s a real delicate design balance, and I think they’ve gotten it pitch perfect between function and design.
Virgin Galactic’s spacesuits come just 24 hours after NASA unveiled two new suit designs for the Artemis mission. The orange Orion Crew Survival system, is meant to be worn during launch and re-entry on the Orion spacecraft.
The second, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, is for walking on the moon. It is meant to give astronauts more manoeuvrability than ever before. Astronauts will be able to bend at the knees and fully rotate their arms.