Elon Musk’s First Spacesuit — ‘It Actually Works’

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Spacex’s first Spacesuit (c) Elon Musk.

Tesla billionaire Elon Musk has revealed the first picture of the SpaceX Spacesuit, via his Instagram feed.

On the social media post, he wrote: “First picture of SpaceX spacesuit. More in days to follow. Worth noting that this actually works (not a mock-up). Already tested to double vacuum pressure. Was incredibly hard to balance esthetics [sic] and function. Easy to do either separately.” Within a day the post had nearly 400,000 likes.

The suit is designed to be worn by astronaut crew inside the Dragon Cargo Capsule, which is in development and expected to be launched next year. It is not meant to be used for space walks but during transport in case of de-pressurisation of the cabin. The spacesuits will be worn by NASA astronauts in the commercial crew programme when SpaceX starts making trips between Earth and the International Space Station, scheduled to kick off at the end of next year.

The photo marks the latest milestone for Musk in the race against several billionaire entrepreneurs to get paying customers into space, and safely back.

Musk announced in February that SpaceX will be ready to make commercial space flights by the end of 2018 and it has already received ‘significant’ deposits from two private citizens. The trip will orbit the Moon and stretch the record for longest distance travelled in space, from Apollo 13’s 249,000-mile mission in 1970, to in excess of 300,000 miles. In March this year SpaceX became the first to relaunch and land a commercial payload rocket.

Musk is going up against fellow Silicon Valley billionaire Jeff Bezos who, like Musk, set up spaceflight company Blue Origin to reduce the cost and increase usability in space travel. Initially, sub-orbital flight (breaking out of Earth’s atmosphere and then returning to land) technology is being developed into full orbital flight (remaining in Earth’s orbit for at least a full rotation). The Blue Origin spacecraft New Shepard has had six successful unmanned launches. Manned test flights are planned to commence early next year, with commercial flights following shortly after.

Meanwhile, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic had aimed to provide spaceflights to paying passengers by 2010 but has been beset by delays and technical issues. Despite the setback of the 2014 crash, and a following two-year hiatus in test flights, Virgin Galactic will likely be the first to give paying customers a taste of space travel. Regardless of the US$250,000 price for a little under two hours of flying time, more than 700 people have already paid.

Also, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has interests in aerospace technology company Vulcan. In 2004 Allen provided investment for a project to put a civilian into suborbital space and in 2011 announced the Stratolaunch system, which uses a similar air launch design to Virgin Galactic rather than the vertical take-off of SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Finally, physicist and venture capitalist Yuri Milner is investing in travel far beyond even our own solar system. His Breakthrough Starshot initiative, endorsed by Stephen Hawking, was announced last year with a US$100 million kick-start to promote research into sending unmanned probes to our neighbouring star systems.

To read more about the billionaire space race, click here.

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