Space tourists may want more than oxygen masks if disaster leads to loss of air pressure inside a private spacecraft. A startup plans to offer $10,000 spacesuits as safety backups for the commercial space industry, but even ordinary citizens can now reserve their own spacesuit ahead of time.
The dream of a commercial spacesuit grew out of a partnership between Ted Southern, a Brooklyn-based inventor and artist, and Nikolay Moiseev, a Russian space suit engineer. The latest goal for their startup, Final Frontier Design, is to raise $20,000 through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter — enough to complete the third generation of their spacesuit before 2013.
"The future commercial space industry (SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Virgin, Armadillo, XCOR, etc.) will need these suits for the basic safety of manned flights," Southern wrote on the Kickstarter project page. "Current NASA suits cost well into the millions, while our 3G is intended to retail for a small fraction of this."
Anyone who donates $10,000 to the Kickstarter project gets their own complete custom-built spacesuit, with smaller donations still earning a variety of spacesuit parts as pledge prizes. But donors who qualify for "real spacesuit hardware" as prizes must get their paperwork in order, according to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
Southern and Moiseev first teamed up to win a $100,000 second-place prize in NASA's 2009 astronaut glove challenge before they went on to found Final Frontier Design. Their goal is to create a spacesuit to be worn inside spacecraft during launch and re-entry — just in case of emergencies involving the depressurization of a spacecraft.
Final Frontier Design is building its third-generation spacesuit, according to the NASA flight certification standards. Its improvements over the second-generation spacesuit include the ability to withstand greater operating pressure, a carbon fiber waist ring, a retractable helmet, and improved gloves and glove disconnects.
"We need your help to make this new suit!" Southern wrote. "While our costs are comparatively modest, space suits are expensive. Every little bit helps us to pay for the materials, equipment and tooling required to make high technology safety garments."
The Kickstarter project will only be funded if it raises at least $20,000 by July 15.