ESA launches spacesuit design competition

7th Feb 2023
ESA launches spacesuit design competition

The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a competition that gives “creative minds” a chance to design a spacesuit. Unlike NASA’s Extra Vehicular Activity spacesuit (EVA) which reflects the United States’ ambition in space, the winning designs will be “instantly recognisable as European” and will represent Europe’s role in space exploration.

Spacesuit design competition – the details!

The competition is open until 28th February 2023, and is solely focused on developing the look of the spacesuit, rather than the technical side of it. A spacesuit acts as a “mini spaceship” for astronauts during their spacewalks and is crucial to keeping them healthy and alive in zero gravity. Participants are asked to present the design in an A3 format, and according to ESA, the design must include:

  • A backpack containing the Life Support System
  • A visor to see through in different lighting conditions
  • A pressurized suit (so it will have to be a bit bulky)

The agency also recommends the spacesuit be designed with a flag of the astronaut’s nationality, a minimum of 7 layers of materials, an interface for the life support system, and specially designed arms and legs that can protect an astronaut’s most vulnerable body parts from the harsh environment.

After submission, a jury panel will compare all designs, and five of the best will be selected as the winners. The designers will gain access to the European Astronaut Centre.

The role of spacesuits

Space is an unforgiving environment for many things, including our bodies. Extremely high and low temperatures, radiation, debris impact, dust, and regolith are some of the things an astronaut will face in space, and proper protection is the only way to survive in that environment. The Moon has nights that last as long as two weeks, with temperatures dropping to –170°C, while also exposing astronauts to high levels of radiation. ESA says:

“A spacesuit must serve as a life support system that will enable cosmic explorers to safely navigate their surroundings. Destinations like the Moon and Mars will be unforgiving to ill-equipped astronauts.”

EVA has stood as an emblem of past exploration in space but plans to return to the Moon and travel to Mars have caused the industry to re-evaluate how spacesuits can protect astronauts in the future. NASA is already developing next-generation spacesuits after selecting commercial companies Collins Aerospace and Axiom Space in 2022 to provide the protective gear for missions to the Moon and Mars. The new suit will replace the design used for space shuttle and International Space Station missions.

While it is unclear if ESA plans to develop real spacesuits with eachg winning spacesuit design, the agency says they could be used in exhibitions or in the film industry.

More details of the competition can be found here.  

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