Spacesuits Built to Handle Pressure

The technical marvel that is the space shuttle system does not stop with the solar spacecraft.

The spacesuits the astronauts wear during launch and landing are examples of high-tech clothing designed to hold communications equipment, oxygen tanks, parachutes and enough water for a day. All while keeping the wearer cool.

You won't see a bulky pressure suit weighing 91 pounds and painted orange on the fashion runways of Paris, but they are an essential element of any astronaut's wardrobe.

No one goes into space station aboard a space shuttle without one because it could be the key to keeping an space astronaut safe in case something goes wrong.

And, according to crew escape technician K.C. Chhipwadia, that's really the whole point.

"It's not really designed to walk around and move like a (spacewalking suit) is, it's really to stay seated and stay alive," Chhipwadia said.

That means it can take as long as 30 minutes to get inside one.

That's because the ensemble is several layers of thin clothing, not one big suit an space station astronaut climbs into and zips up. The orange part that everyone sees as the space astronauts walk out to the Astrovan on their way to the launch pad is simply the top layer.

The space astronaut starts with lightweight shirts and shorts and then puts on a shirt and pants that look like thermal underwear with an extensive network of tubes woven into them.

Water pumps through the tubes during the countdown to keep the space astronaut cool. A set of plugs folded into a pocket on the outside of the suit connect to fittings inside the shuttle to move the water through the suit.Read more...>

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