Science fiction may well become reality with the development of a real life Iron Man suit that would allow astronauts or extreme thrill seekers to space dive from up to 62 miles (100 km) above the Earth‘s surface at the very edge of space, and safely land using thruster boots instead of a parachute. Hi-tech inventors over at Solar System Express (Sol-X) and biotech designers Juxtopia LLC (JLLC) are collaborating on this project with a goal of releasing a production model of such a suit by 2016. The project will use a commercial space suit to which will be added augmented reality (AR) goggles, jet packs, power gloves and movement gyros.
More recently the Iron Man movies have highlighted Tony Stark, a fictional comic book hero, who invents and uses a powered exoskeleton-like armor that defines him as the super hero “Iron Man." The key elements of Stark’s suit are the jets situated in the boots and the repulsors located in the gauntlets. The repulsors in the 2008 movie are used as a form of propulsion and as steering jets, though they can also be used offensively. The helmet, with projected holographic heads-up display (HUD) and HAL-like artificial intelligence butler JARVIS (Just a Rather Very Intelligent System), tops off the outfit.
In real life we have Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver, daredevil and BASE jumper who set a world record for skydiving an estimated 24.24 miles (39 km), reaching a speed of 843.6 mph (1,357.64 km/h), or Mach 1.25, on October 14, 2012. His jump from a helium balloon in the stratosphere set the altitude record for a manned balloon flight, parachute jump from the highest altitude and greatest free fall velocity. His suit was designed to provide protection from temperatures of -90° to +100° F (-68° to 38° C) and was pressurized to 3.5 pounds per square inch or roughly equivalent to the atmospheric pressure at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters).
In order to achieve their goals, the team must overcome many technical difficulties. The suit must be protected against hostile temperatures, pressures and lack of oxygen. At the heights involved, low pressure may cause decompression sickness or ebullism. There is also the possibility of a suit breach which would cause the space diver to lose both oxygen and protection. Even though supersonic speeds will be achieved, more oxygen must be carried for a longer descent even if not needed.
The suit must be capable of withstanding the heat of re-entry and supersonic and hypersonic shock waves. Furthermore, G-forces are also in play. As the space diver slices through the thin atmosphere to the denser air below, it is possible they would experience positive or negative G-forces from 2-8, which may cause pressure-related complications or even black-outs. Spinning out of control, which actually occurred for roughly 10 seconds during Felix Baumgartner’s descent, can cause blood to pool in the extremities, possibly causing hemorrhages or unconsciousness.
Sol-X intends to commence in similar fashion to the Red Bull Stratos jump by first testing the suit with lower-altitude jumps and parachute descents, but the final goal is far more ambitious. Through the use of wingsuit technology and specially-designed boots with miniature aerospike engines attached, the space diver will end his spectacular jump with a glide to Earth and a power-assisted vertical landing. At least, that's the plan.
New York-based Final Frontier Design is working with Sol-X on a customized version of its low-cost Intra-Vehicular Activity IVA 3G spacesuit, successfully crowd funded last year through an online Kickstarter campaign. Lightweight layers of aerogel and Space Shuttle-like flexible insulation blankets will serve as the spacesuit’s outermost protective thermal layer, with Sol-X currently in talks with several wingsuit manufacturers to assist in merging their technology with the RL MARK VI Space Diving Suit .
Real-time dynamic analytics keep the diver advised of heart rate, respiration and internal/external space suit temperatures. The display will provide data on rates of acceleration and deceleration, GPS location, and elevation, plus an FAA radar display of the local airspace. The design of the goggles includes voice control to turn the RL MARK VI’s systems on and off, eject spent hardware components from the diver’s body at different altitudes, manipulate suit cams and lighting, and to control verbal communications to ground control.
The other main function of the diver’s gyroscopic boots will kick in as he nears the surface of the Earth and he fires off his miniature in-built aerospike thrusters to gently descend to the ground for a feet-first perfect landing. The controllers for the gyroscopic boots will be built into “power gloves” for ease of access.
According to Blaze Sanders, Chief Technology Officer of Sol-X, “The GDB will be the first space-rated open hardware electronic prototyping board, enabling any type of person to create space qualified hardware. The GDB will replace the Arduino Uno as the preferred high-level prototyping environment."
The following video highlights space diving's potential.
Source: Solar System Express
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