Fri, Oct 18, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Virgin Galactic unveils its commercial space suits

AFP, YONKERS, New York

Richard Branson models Virgin Galactic’s space wear system in Yonkers, New York, on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

The date for the world’s first commercial space flight has not been confirmed, but the passengers’ outfits are ready and waiting.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson on Wednesday unveiled the custom suits that are to be worn by the first private astronauts.

US sportswear designer Under Armour “worked day and night for about two years on this project,” said Branson, who served as a model at the presentation at a skydiving simulator near New York.

The 69-year-old British billionaire donned the personalized royal blue suit that he plans to wear during his company’s inaugural flight — sometime next year.

“Space suits are a part of the iconography of the first space age. Our visual impressions of human spaceflight and what astronauts wear are inextricably linked,” Branson said. “I love the way the space wear looks and I love the way it feels. I also love the fact that the next time I put it on, I will be on my way to space.”

Under Armour president Kevin Plank said that the suits’ creators approached the design the same way they would think about clothing for extreme sports.

“They approached it just like one of our typical uniform deals,” Park said. “They started with ... understanding the sport, understanding the needs of the athlete, understanding the extreme conditions they go through.”

The material for the suits, undergarments and boots were chosen for their ability to aid in the body’s temperature and moisture regulation.

A transparent interior pocket was added so space-exploring customers can keep pictures of their loved ones “literally ... close to the heart,” a Virgin Galactic statement said.

They are designed so wearers can fit perfectly into the spacecraft’s seats.

Every space tourist is to get their own custom suit that they can take home with them, complete with a label of their name and their nation’s flag.

“To be able to touch the suit is equivalent to touching the spacecraft for the first time,” said Trevor Beattie, one of about 600 clients already signed up for Virgin Galactic’s first flights. “It’s tangible.”

“It’s a new stage that we’re involved in and we’re closer still, but we’re still patient, we can wait,” the Briton said.

Virgin Galactic, which was founded in 2004, has spent years developing its space program and, after a fatal accident in 2014, has twice crossed the barrier into the final frontier, but the company has still not yet piloted a space flight with clients on board.

The company plans to offer weightless flights to six passengers at a time, at US$250,000 a ticket for the first customers.

The client-astronauts would be able to float around the ship’s cabin and look out of portholes to see the curvature of the Earth, all while surrounded by the blackness of space.

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