Exploiting the flurry of renewed interest occasioned by the 50th anniversary of the APOLLO moon landings, Collins Aerospace and ILC Dover on 25 July unveiled a Next Generation Space Suit (NGSS) system on Capitol Hill.
Drawing on extensive collaboration from Apollo through the Space Shuttle to the International Space Station programmes, the two companies funded and designed the NGSS system as a forward-looking prototype and demonstrator of innovative future suit technologies. The system was designed with NASA and commercial customer applications in mind, including lunar surface missions in partial gravity, orbital space station missions in microgravity and future planetary missions. However, given the current activities in the creation of a US space force, military applications must also be firmly in the minds of the companies’ executive staffs.
Compared to Collins’ existing space suit. used by astronauts today on the International Space Station – the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), which ILC Dover also collaborated on – the NGSS boasts a number of enhanced features, including:
• New carbon dioxide removal technology that is perpetually regenerated while in use. This breakthrough technology enables extended-duration missions, reduces dependency on resupply and significantly reduces crew maintenance time;
• Improved mobility joints and an ambulatory lower torso that will allow astronauts to traverse hazardous terrain, perform complex assembly tasks and closely examine, handle and collect geological samples from the surface;
• Upper torso structural component with advanced sizing features to enable a larger anthropometric range of astronauts to have an optimal fit in as few as two sizes. The upper torso can be resized quickly without tools;
• Significantly more efficient motors and electronics that reduce size and weight, and enable the incorporation of additional avionics and data capabilities into the suit;
• Pathways to integrate parallel development of cutting-edge information technology and display systems that will provide astronauts with a digitally-connected experience, including advanced displays and voice-activated controls, real-time access to data, and HD video recording and communication capabilities;
• Open, evolvable architecture that allows the space suit to be easily upgraded with technologies that keep it state-of-the-art and aligned with mission objectives.
“Collins Aerospace is proud to collaborate with ILC Dover on the Next Generation Space Suit system […] Together, we have a rich history of advancing human space exploration, and as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the APOLLO 11 lunar mission, we have already begun writing the next chapter,” commented Collins Aerospace President, ISR and Space Solutions, Gail Barker.
“Collaborating with an innovative company like Collins Aerospace is a perfect match […] Our depth of experience and knowledge of suit technology at ILC Dover, joined with Collins’ life support capabilities, makes us a formidable team. Together, we’re going back to the Moon and on to Mars,” added ILC Dover Division Manager, Space Systems, Patty Stoll.