Elon Musk provides first full view of Crew Dragon spacesuit
The bit more of the cover has been lifted on what the spacesuit for SpaceX's Crew Dragon missions will look like, but only a bit. In an Instagram post, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk released the full-view image of the starkly futuristic suit standing next to the Crew Dragon capsule with the comment, "Astronaut spacesuit next to Crew Dragon."
Despite Musk's typically brief social media bombshell drop, it's still possible to deduce a number of things about the suit, which Musk, in a previous posting, said is not a mock up and has already undergone "double vacuum pressure" testing. Presumably this means it was pressure tested to two atmospheres of internal pressure or 29.4 in² (1520.2 mmHg).
From the slim nature of the spacesuit and its lack of large, robust life support connections, it seems certain that this is not so much a true spacesuit as an emergency suit, similar to that used by high altitude pilots, Project Mercury astronauts, the Space Shuttle, and the crew of the current Soyuz capsules used to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
The difference is that a true spacesuit, like those used for spacewalks at the station or by the Apollo astronauts on the Moon in the early '70s, are actually miniature spaceships with complete, self-contained life support systems to keep the wearer supplied with breathable air, heating and cooling, and general protection against the extremely hostile environment of space.
In addition, such spacesuits have heavy billows set into the joint areas to allow the astronaut to move. Without these billows, the suit would inflate like a starfish, leaving the wearer helpless.
An emergency suit, on the other hand, is designed for the much simpler task of protecting the astronaut for a short time if the spacecraft's cabin loses pressure. The airtight suit then inflates and the wearer is safe until the problem is corrected or an emergency return to Earth is effected. However, the suit cannot protect the wearer for very long against exposure to the environment outside the capsule.
Also, it only has minimal billows to allow the wearer to operate controls or to evacuate the craft if needs be. Essentially, the suit inflates to leave the wearer more or less in a seated posture, but able to move the arms and legs a little bit.
The image released indicates that the suit appears to be made in several sections, with a tunic, trousers, and detachable boots and gloves, as well as a plastic helmet. It will be interesting to see how these seal together because the pieces seem to lack the usual metal ring seals found on US and Russian suits. In addition, the suit has what look like padding or protective anti-wear patches on the knees, shoulders, and buttocks.
How effective this suit is as space equipment remains to be seen, but 10 out of 10 for style.