SpaceX has shown off its rockets at all stages of development as it moves toward manned flights, but what are people going to wear on board those vessels? Now we have a pretty good idea courtesy of SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. Musk posted an image on Instagram of the new SpaceX space suit, and it’s a lot more slick than you’d probably expect. In fact, it looks like something straight out of Mass Effect. It just needs an “N7” badge.
The suit is largely white with black sections and gray piping. The helmet includes a large tinted visor and a smooth transition into the body of the suit. Overall, it’s quite handsome. Musk noted in the post that SpaceX worked hard to balance functionality and aesthetics, which wasn’t exactly a priority with the bulky suit designs of the past. The SpaceX suit does look a bit more refined than Boeing’s previously unveiled design for use on its CST-100 capsule.
Importantly, this is not a mockup of what a real space suit would look like. It’s the real thing. SpaceX has tested the suit at two times vacuum pressure without any issue. It can hold a few atmospheres of pressure alright, but one of the reasons it’s so svelte is the lack of insulation. This suit is not designed for spacewalks like the iconic NASA suit you probably think of when someone says “space suit.” The SpaceX suit is only intended for use inside the Dragon capsule.
A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Aug 23, 2017 at 12:59am PDT
It’s necessary to have a pressure suit when traveling into space on the off-chance something goes wrong. If cabin pressure is lost, this suit will keep passengers and crew alive. The SpaceX suit (whatever the final design) will be worn by astronauts as they travel aboard Dragon capsules to the International Space Station. Musk promises more information about the new space suit will be made available later.
Boeing and SpaceX are the two companies working with NASA to begin manned flights to the ISS. The Commercial Crew Program started several years ago with Boeing designing an entirely new concept vehicle and SpaceX repurposing its existing Dragon capsule. SpaceX is currently planning to have its first orbital test of the manned Dragon capsule (with no one on board) in early 2018. The first manned missions could take place as soon as May 2018, but that date has already slipped a few times. Hopefully, the fancy new space suits will be ready in time.