This design is the latest addition to the astronaut apparel created with Under Armour, which also includes the Spacewear System that Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut customers will wear for their spaceflights.
For the pilots’ suits, the design team followed a brief to create a non-pressurised spacesuit which not only aesthetically conveys the pilots’ role in Virgin Galactic’s mission, but which also practically supports their unique task of flying regularly at over three times the speed of sound into space and back.
Due to these unique requirements, each member of the Pilot Corps was heavily involved in the design process, providing feedback and wearing test versions of the spacesuit while completing various assignments.
Randall Harward, Under Armour’s SVP of Material and Manufacturing Innovation said: “A pilot’s flight suit has been refined over the decades to embody a certain undeniable look and function, but they also have to perform beyond expectations. We took that as a starting point and built in all of the Under Armour solutions we’ve developed for comfort, support, movement and temperature management. Our goal was to build a suit that leaves a pilot – like any athlete – feeling confident and with zero distractions during a critical moment of performance. It’s been a fascinating journey.”
When it came to choosing the most suitable materials for the pilot spacesuit, safety and comfort were the key criteria. The spacesuit is lightweight at just over 1kg, but consists of flight-grade fabrics that ensure it is robust and strong. The suit is optimized for comfort in all stages of flight whether that be during boost, when the forces press the pilots backwards into their seats, or in zero gravity where cushioning on the shoulders provides comfort as pilots are held in positions by seat straps. The knitted fabrics which form the spacesuit also help to regulate body temperature whether outside in the New Mexico sunshine or during the various phases of flight.
Virgin Galactic’s pilots and Future Astronaut customers will form a unique crew on each spaceflight, but it was important to make the pilot spacesuits distinguishable from the Spacewear System created for Future Astronauts, highlighting their different roles during spaceflight.