What advantages will the new NASA Z-1 spacesuits have?
The Z-1 spacesuit being developed by NASA and ILC Dover is intended to be a far safer, more convenient and more capable suit for exploring space. It features radiation-proof materials that should protect astronauts during long spacewalks beyond the protection of Earth’s magnetic field, and has flexible joints to allow easier movement. What’s more, it is capable of operating at roughly double the internal atmospheric pressure of previous suits, allowing astronauts to go straight from spacecraft to suit without a long ‘prebreathing’ adaptation process to prepare for the sudden drop in pressure. This allows for the suit’s most unusual feature: an entry system known as a suitport. Like the widely used Russian Orlan suit, it is a single-piece design with a hatch at the back for the astronaut to climb in and out. But unlike Orlan, the Z-1 can simply be attached to a hatch on the side of a spacecraft or ground exploration vehicle, so users can just climb in and unhook themselves without the need for an airlock.
Answered by Giles Sparrow.