NASA Develops New Space Suit for Advanced Space Missions

by Tiffany Kaiser , DailyTech

Z-1 Prototype (Source: Popular Mechanics)

The new space suit is called the “Z-1 Prototype Spacesuit and Portable Life Support System (PLSS) 2.0” NASA has decided to perform a complete makeover on its traditional U.S. space suit in preparation of new space ventures that lie ahead.

NASA’s current space suits were designed in 1992. They were made for crews aboard the space shuttle fleet and those spending time at the International Space Station (ISS). But with the space shuttle fleet’s recent retirement and the country’s latest goals to go to Mars, an asteroid, and beyond, NASA has recognized that it may be time to create more robust and technologically-equipped suits for astronauts.

The new space suit is called the “Z-1 Prototype Spacesuit and Portable Life Support System (PLSS) 2.0.” It is a rear-entry space suit that can do pretty much anything the actual spaceship does, from supplying oxygen, removing carbon dioxide, and protecting the astronaut from extreme heat/cold.

The suit is made up of many hard elements on top of its fabric, but the suit becomes flexible when inflated. There is a hatch and life support pack on the back of the suit, where the hatch allows the astronaut to attach to the spacecraft, rover, etc. The suit also has urethane-coated nylon and polyester layers to “maintain pressure” and allows for greater flexibility in the limbs and torso.

Astronauts get into the suit through a suitport, which is the combined hatch and life support pack. An airlock is not required to get in and out of the suit, meaning that the astronaut can get in and out of the suit faster without worrying about wasting air. This is because the suit operates at the same pressure as the spacecraft. The hatch simply won’t open if there’s a pressure difference.

Other new features include technologically advanced scrubbers to remove carbon dioxide, which are capable of regenerating on their own by dumping the carbon dioxide instead of having to bake the lithium-hydroxide/metal oxide scrubbers between missions.

Also, the suit packs a water membrane evaporation cooler that cools the suit through the same method as sweating instead of current techniques, which consists of a sublimator that only works in a hard vacuum.

The Z-1 will actually serve as a model for the Z-2, which is expected to be ready by 2015.
Source: NASA

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