Orbital Outfitters’ core competency is the development of space and pressure suits for the commercial spaceflight industry often dubbed “NewSpace.” While our suit technology is often consistent across various projects, significant adaptation is commonly required across different vehicles and systems.
Perhaps the most critical point to be made is that suits are not “the clothes you wear on launch day,” but an integrated vehicle subsystem that, if properly integrated and operated, can protect the crew from a loss of pressure (down to vacuum if necessary) in the cabin, and other hazards. This capability arises not only from the design of the suit, but from the degree to which it is integrated into the vehicle.
There is often confusion among vehicle developers that there are “off the shelf” suits that would be “right” for a particular vehicle if only the interfaces were changed. Orbital Outfitters believes that the only “right” suit for any particular vehicle is one that has been built for that particular vehicle. Adapting suits built for other vehicles or other applications decades ago is never the right answer to keeping crew alive.
Given this philosophy, Orbital Outfitters suits are not built around the anticipated needs of NewSpace companies, but upon actual customer requirements. Our first suit, the IS³, was based upon requirements from XCOR Aerospace and we expect that an incarnation of this suit will serve XCOR’s needs in the future.
The IS³ series of suits:
The IS³ is the first suit developed by Orbital Outfitters. It is an emergency pressure suit for suborbital operations. Known in the field as a “get me down” or “Launch Entry Suit” (LES), its primary function is to provide protection in the event of a loss of pressure inside the vehicle. The design provides superior flexibility while maintaining cost effective sizing. Features include:
- Life support functions for 30 minutes or more at partial or full vacuum
- Low Mass Design
- Available as full pressure single gas (O2) or dual gas suits
- Comfortable for the wearer
- Integrated into a parachute harness
- Visibility superior to existing designs
- Optional integrated advanced suit-cooling technology developed in the auto racing and film industries
- Independent 15 minute backup pressurization/oxygen system
- Automatic rapid activation function
- Intuitive to operate
- Integrated audio system with noise cancellation
- Options including integrated sensors to record real-time biometric information
In addition to our primary focus on the development of space and pressure suits, Orbital Outfitters also specializes in the construction of full scale vehicle mockups. These mockups can built for engineering or PR purposes with specific adaptations to tailor to either or both of these needs.
Traditionally, engineering mockups are built within large organizations not adapted to this kind of construction resulting in very high costs for jobs that need not be. Conversely PR mockups are often outsourced to companies with little experience in aerospace. The result is often PR mockups which are poor representations of the real hardware.
Orbital Outfitters’ unique relationship with the fabrication capabilities at Global Effects allows the company to bridge the gap between the highly technical world of aerospace and the artistic fabrication world of Hollywood to generate mockups for both PR and engineering purposes with the prices and timelines more common outside of aerospace.
In addition to our work on emergency pressure suits, Orbital Outfitters has been working on developing suits for space-diving — essentially bail out from high altitudes approaching and eventually from space.
The goal of these efforts is to create the systems and infrastructure necessary to allow a human being to accomplish an emergency (or other) egress from one of the NewSpace sub-orbital spacecraft and return to Earth safely – to bail out and skydive from the edge of space — or as it has come to be known, space-diving. In the future, OO intends to demonstrate this capability through a series of progressive flights originating from NewSpace rocket powered vehicles at progressively higher altitudes thereby developing and demonstrating capability.
To be clear, this effort is not meant to be a one time stunt, nor is it solely focused on just breaking the altitude record for sky diving. Our interest is in developing the technical capability to carry out such dives on a regular basis. Given this approach, the possibility that another party might well reach this goal before us (by jumping from a balloon for example), is not a threat to the project, but rather just a new benchmark that we will eventually reach and pass. It is critical to bear in mind that the two limiting factors in high altitude skydive are the suit that you wear (including life support and attitude control) and the ride that takes you there (specifically how high it can take you). The great advantage in working closely with NewSpace vehicle developers is that the vehicles in question will eventually achieve vastly higher altitudes than balloons ever could and they will do so in a regular, repeatable way.
Down the road, there are a range of applications and opportunities to explore with this capability including military applications, emergency training and certification, and technology development. To reiterate however, this project is challenging and dangerous. It is not an activity that the general public will have access to, but a high risk research activity involving trained professionals. All of that said, space-diving is an opportunity to develop critical safety technology and capability while raising public awareness and excitement about everything NewSpace has to offer.
Many of the early steps necessary to make this project a success have been taken, but there is still much to be done before the world’s first space-dive. We are actively looking for partners of all kinds to assist us in this project’s success. Since our interest is in developing the technology and not just the world record as it stands we are open to working with other projects and teams with similar foci.