How a Crazy DIY Space Project Gets Help from a Crazy DIY Space-Suit Project

BY KRISTIAN VON BENGTSON for Wired News

Little over six months ago I had the pleasure of reading about a DIY space-suit project by Anthropologist Cameron M. Smith of Portland, Oregon, on wired.com. Immediately I fell in love with his work, approach and design.

I wrote Cameron Smith ASAP and saluted his work and we established an ongoing weekly connection debating and presenting our mutual projects through e-mails. At the time I first contacted Cameron I told him that Copenhagen Suborbitals was working toward a shirt-sleeve environment, which basically means flying almost commando, without any special suit.

However, things have changed.

The last couple of weeks I have had some great chats with Peter Madsen and we now see, not only a great opportunity in working with Cameron, but also an opportunity to increase safety, if we decide to go with a pressure suit for our mission.

The only thing protecting Peter from space is the capsule pressure hull. We still believe that this can be achieved but if you are adding a low complexity pressure suit into the equation, things cannot get any worse.

So, Copenhagen Suborbitals has decided to welcome Cameron Smith on board our mission and we are looking forward to this collaboration. We had a great Skype-talk last night and we are ready to go. I know a lot of people want us to go with a “real” space suit. For some reason everyone claims that this part cannot be done the DIY way. But that was also what people told us related to parachutes, guidance…actually all subsystems.

Why would you be flying in space wearing a $10 million suit inside a $100,000 homemade space capsule? It doesn’t make any sense to us. Cameron’s work has the right feel to it. He work the same way as we do: exploring, learning and creating only the necessary and nothing more. And it will be orange!

Very soon, Cameron will tell you all about his suit in a guest blog, because I can only give you half the details, but for now here are some thoughts.

The time of flight of this suborbital mission is app 15 minutes, with only four to five minutes of micro-gravity above the Kármán line. Since we believe it can be done wearing regular clothing, we are not expecting scenarios like complete loss of pressure in space, which is why the pressure suit is not likely to be designed for such events.

We do accept leaking of cabin atmosphere into outer space and this suit just allows for a leaking scenario worse than expected, increasing general safety for our astronaut.

We are also providing a last chance of survival for the astronaut by blasting away the hatch followed by a jump with a personal chute, if things “goes wrong” during descent. In regular clothing you have a limited height for this but the suit will add some extra kilometers to this risky contingency scenario.

As always, you can never add anything good without being stalked by bad. The suit requires additional subsystems and creates new demands for seating design and hatch size for ingress and egress procedures. If these extra requirements were alarming I would not have followed up on the suit-idea. But they are really not.

The plan is as follows.

Cameron will provide me with basic dimensions of the suit based on the Kazbek seating position from which I will redesign the seat to match this and the interior of the capsule.  This design will be transferred back to Cameron, who will create a seat and hatch mock-up to work the design and ingress and egress scenarios.

Cameron’s project has not been totally absorbed into our mission. He will continue his balloon mission and by doing so continue the development of the suit for both purposes.

Thanks to Wired for leading my attention to this suit project and thanks to Cameron Smith for joining our mission.

*This story was published on Wired News and can be seen here

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