This morning, space tourism venture Virgin Galactic showed off a line of custom Under Armour-designed flight suits that the company’s customers will wear on their short trips to suborbital space.
Dancers showed off the suits’ flexibility inside an indoor skydiving chamber in Yonkers, New York on Tuesday. During the presentation, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson also unveiled his own custom suit. Branson’s jacket features his face on the inner lining — naturally, made up of tiny spaceplanes.
The Under Armour suits are comprised of multiple items, including a base layer, footwear, and outerwear. To complete the ensemble, customers will also get a training suit as well as a limited edition jacket to commemorate their flight. All of these materials will be “personally tailored” for each person flying with Virgin Galactic, a small perk for those who have already dropped $250,000 on one ticket to space.
Virgin Galactic’s customers will wear the gear during future rides on the company’s spaceplane, the VSS Unity. The vehicle will take people to the edge of space and back so that they can experience just a few minutes of weightlessness. To get to space, the VSS Unity will be carried to a high altitude by a giant dual-cabin aircraft called VMS Eve. That carrier will then release the VSS Unity, and the spaceplane’s main engine will ignite, propelling the vehicle high above the Earth. After passengers spend about four to five minutes in microgravity, the VSS Unity will then reenter the atmosphere and glide back down to a runway.
Anyone who flies on the VSS Unity won’t actually be leaving the spaceplane, though. That means the outfits they wear aren’t technically spacesuits, as they’re not designed to be in the vacuum of space. Instead, the ensembles are meant to keep their wearers comfortable and safe whenever they leave their seats and float about the cabin. With that goal in mind, they are made with lightweight fabrics, with cushions on the elbows, knees, and feet, in case people bump up into something during their weightless experience. The suits are also supposed to make people comfortable in their harnesses whenever they feel extra Gs during the climb to space.
Customers will even have the opportunity to customize their gear if they want; for example, they can add name badges and flags from their home countries. There are also hidden pockets where customers can stow personal items to take to space with them.
Virgin Galactic says the suits were tested in lab conditions that mimic the environments that astronauts will experience during their flights. The company also got input from future customers as well as pilots, doctors, and astronaut trainers. To get a good feel for how these suits behave during flights, future Virgin Galactic test crews will wear the outfits on upcoming test missions. As of now, the company plans to begin commercial flights in mid-2020, with the first trip carrying Virgin CEO Richard Branson to suborbital space.