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SpaceX offers an inside look into the 'lab' where they're building the future of space suits

By Benjamin Bullard
NASA SpaceX Crew Dragon Suit

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are about to return to Earth after two months aboard the ISS, and that means they’ll soon be trading their space station gear for the sleek white style of the SpaceX flight suits that ushered them through the Crew Dragon’s maiden voyage in late May.

Strapping back into the sartorially stellar SpaceX suits for their trip home means putting the suit itself through only its second-ever real-world flight use, and just in time for the journey, SpaceX is sharing a behind-the-scenes look at the Hawthorne, California, facility where the suits are developed and manufactured.

Take a tour of the “Space Suit Lab” to learn about the suits’ integral connection with the Crew Dragon cabin, those cool touch-screen gloves (will they work in a Tesla?), and to see what’s up with those neat umbilical connecting cords:

Space Suits and Crew Equipment Manager Chris Trigg explains that the suits were conceived as a functional component of the overall Crew Dragon system. Designed with plug-and-play automation in mind, each outfit is “something that the crew just literally has to plug in when they sit down, and then the suit kind of takes care of itself from there … it’s really a part of the vehicle.”

The Crew Dragon’s “suit-seat system” gives the astronauts instant access to the Dragon’s communications and avionics info, while supplying cooling air and gas to maintain internal pressure, via the umbilical connecting cable that plugs directly into each suit near (where else?) each crew member’s navel.

Touch-screen gloves were of course a necessity, since the Dragon cockpit relies on a touch-screen interface. So SpaceX’s success in developing pressurized gloves that are dexterous enough to interact with the screen seems like one of the suits’ low-key design triumphs (since we’re still searching for the elusive civilian version that won’t fail us when we need to whip out our smart phones).

Like the Dragon system itself, the suits have been designed for adaptability and customization (not to mention good looks) as the flight program dictates. So expect to see even more cool innovation from SpaceX as humanity begins hanging out more than ever before in low Earth orbit (and beyond).