The NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will fly the SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS). The Crew Dragon is a modified Cargo Dragon capsule, designed to ferry US astronauts to and from the ISS on future manned missions. Until now, NASA has relied on its Russian counterpart to launch astronauts into orbit. However, once the Dragon is certified for manned spaceflight, SpaceX will supply NASA with a launch vehicle and matching spacesuits.
The “custom-tailored” spacesuits are meant to provide a pressurised environment for astronauts flying the Crew Dragon.
In the event of the spacecraft depressurising in orbit, the suit will keep astronauts safe from the vacuum of space.
SpaceX’s design comes with built-in temperature regulators and the rocket manufacturer claims the suit’s outer layer is flame resistant.
The helmets are 3D printed and feature built-in hearing aids for the incredibly loud launch and descent stages of spaceflight.
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On Thursday, August 8, NASA shared photographs of the two men trying on the spacesuits at SpaceX’s base of operations in Hawthorne, California.
Mr Behnken then took to Twitter to share a picture of himself and Colonel Hurley fully dressed in the suits.
The grinning astronauts were dressed head-to-toe with wide grins on their faces.
Mr Behnken tweeted: “Usually @Astro_Doug, myself, and the rest of the team are all business as we do our part to keep @SpaceX’s Demo2 mission headed towards @Space_Station, but on that day we took just a few seconds for pictures!”
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Then, on Tuesday, August 13, the astronaut shared more pictures online of himself dressed in past spacesuits.
One photo shows the astronaut in NASA’s iconic orange jumpsuit and another features him in NASA’s signature EVA spacesuit.
Mr Behnken tweeted: “A spacesuit’s job is to protect you in extreme environments.
“From @NASA space shuttle ascent and entry, to spacewalk aboard @Space_Station, to the @Commercia_Crew vehicle emergency scenarios, operating wth their protection becomes second nature.”
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While at Hawthorne, the two astronauts went through launch drills and simulations.
The SpaceX suits were also tested for damages and leaks, which could render them a hazard when in space.
The astronauts will don the spacesuits likely in 2020 for NASA’s and SpaceX’s Demo-2 flight.
The Demo-2 Dragon launch will mark the first manned flight of the spacecraft to test its capabilities in space.
NASA said: “Launch and ascent will be consistent with SpaceX’s Cargo Resupply Services launches with the notable exception of two astronauts sitting on top.
“Once in orbit, the crew will verify the vehicle flies as intended by testing, among other things, the environmental control system, the displays and controls system, and the manoeuvring thrusters using manual control.
“After about a day, they will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station.”
The spacecraft is specifically designed to perform the flight autonomously but the crew will be at hand to monitor the Dragon’s behaviour.
The Demo-2 launch is expected to take place in early 2020 after first being pencilled in for November 2019.