Final Frontier Design, a small company that has been designing and prototyping space suits for many years, are now testing their fourth generation suit: Spacesuit Undergoes Zero-G Testing Above Canada to Prepare for Commercial Flights – Space.com
[FFD co-founder Ted Southern] and his Final Frontier co-founder, Nikolay Moiseev, first met each other as competitors during a NASA challenge intended to make better spacesuit gloves. In a subsequent 2009 competition, they paired up and won second prize ($100,000) in NASA’s glove challenge.
The two founded Final Frontier Design — based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard — and have been busy with spacesuit research ever since. They now have seven spacesuits under their belt, encompassing four generations of changes. Their funding includes four Small Business Innovation Research grants, a NASA Space Act Agreement, a NASA fixed-price contract and a Flight Opportunities Program grant for microgravity testing.
FFD is facing the same challenges that appear too have done in another commercial spacesuit maker, Orbital Outfitters. Not only has the human suborbital spaceflight industry taken much longer to get off the ground than expected, the two companies still pursuing the market – Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin – both plan to fly passengers without pressure suits.
“I think that’s crazy,” Southern said, pointing out that NASA and other space agencies have astronauts wear suits during launch and landing. (The unsuited Russian Soyuz 11 crew was killed in 1968 due to spacecraft depressurization during landing.) “Suits have proven to be useful … they are just like the oxygen masks that fall down from a commercial airliner when you’re at 35,000 feet.”
FFD has been collaborating with Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere), a group dedicated to doing science with crewed suborbital space vehicles. Here are videos about the test of a FFD space suit: