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The Virgin Galactic Pilot Corps will wear the suits on the world’s first commercial spaceflight.
By Emma Al-Mousawi | December 8 2020
What does one wear to make space-travel history? Virgin Galactic has unveiled the spacesuit its pilots will wear as it flies private astronauts on a life-changing journey into space.
The suits, which weigh just over 2lbs each, will make their space travel debut aboard Virgin Galactic’s space plane VSS Unity as it embarks on the first ever human spaceflight from New Mexico, scheduled for later this month with the flight window opening on December 11.
Donning the spacesuits on the pre-Christmas test flight will be chief pilot, Dave Mackay and pilot, CJ Sturckow – who is expected to become the first person to fly to space from three different US States. Both are members of the eight person team in the Virgin Galactic Pilot Corps.
As you can imagine, creating a spacesuit capable of regular space missions at over three times the speed of sound was not a straightforward process. Designed in collaboration with the company’s technical spacewear partner, Under Armour, each member of the Pilot Corps was involved, providing feedback and wearing test versions of the spacesuit while completing various assignments.
Randall Harward, Under Armour’s SVP of material and manufacturing innovation, said: “A pilot’s flight suit has been refined over the decades to embody a certain undeniable look and function, but they also have to perform beyond expectations. We took that as a starting point and built in all of the Under Armour solutions we’ve developed for comfort, support, movement and temperature management.
“Our goal was to build a suit that leaves a pilot – like any athlete – feeling confident and with zero distractions during a critical moment of performance.”
The end result is a customized suit which is optimized for ease of wear at all stages of flight whether that be during boost or in zero gravity where cushioning on the shoulders provides comfort as pilots are held in position by seat straps.
Chief pilot, McKay said it was an honor to wear one of the suits and praised its functionality. “The thoughtfulness of the design ensures the suits are not only comfortable and practical, but also bespoke to each pilot,” he said. “As soon as you step into the suit, you immediately get a sense of the significance of our mission.
“I’m very much looking forward to wearing my own spacesuit during New Mexico’s first human spaceflight later this month and then many times in the future as we share the wonder of space with our Future Astronauts.”
The pilot suit is the latest addition to the astronaut apparel created with Under Armour which also includes the Spacewear System that Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut customers will wear for their spaceflights. Over 600 people have already signed up for Virgin Galactic’s $250,000 roundtrip to the edge of space. The flight is set to take passengers 60 miles above the earth’s surface.
A common color palette was used for both passenger and pilot suits to symbolize the formation of a unique crew on each spaceflight. However the pilot suit will be distinguishable by a handful of key details: Firstly, the addition of black as a reminder that the destination of each flight is the black sky of space. Secondly, the Virgin Galactic pilot wings emblem, which captures the spirit and essence of flight and is said to represent the elegance, speed and dynamism of a Virgin Galactic spaceflight. The front of the spacesuit features the pilot’s embroidered name and a placement for their commercial astronaut wings.