The commercial space industry is growing and each company is forming its own identity to best engage its customers. As companies like SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin create vehicles that will carry people into space, they will also need to develop space suits to protect astronauts and space tourists during the flights. ILC Dover has been developing and producing space suits for NASA since Project Apollo. Recently, ILC merged some of its heritage suit designs with new technologies to create suits for commercial use. The result was a highly capable and reliable suit that only required modification of its outer layer to provide the identity and aesthetic impact desired by commercial space companies.
To this end, ILC Dover recently partnered with Philadelphia University to conduct a study that paves the way for a space suit that functions perfectly and does it with style. Philadelphia University is uniquely positioned for the task because of the close working collaboration between their fashion design and engineering programs. This allows them to create technical apparel that is aesthetically pleasing and at the same time meets performance needs.
The process began with Philadelphia University students learning about space suit design and commercial suit requirements from ILC Dover Space Suit Engineers. The fashion design students formed small teams and performed background research to better understand the end customer's history, desires (colors, themes, etc.), and related inspirational technology areas such as Biomimetics. Once the functional foundation and inspiration for company identities were established, the teams got creative and developed design concepts for the outer layer of a space suit. The mechanical engineering students reviewed and guided the design process to ensure functional performance goals could be met.
œThe project brief asked the designers to share their aesthetic research and development process with the team from ILC Dover while considering the engineering requirements of the suits, said Celia Frank, associate professor of fashion design. œWe wanted to make sure our designs were not only functional, but fashionable as well, said Gia Gladden '14, a fashion design student. Gladden's team and the others created several different designs targeted toward commercial space companies Boeing and SpaceX. The process led to the creation of a suit style that matched the essence of each company's vision for commercial space exploration.
Seven student teams participated and the top three were awarded prizes by ILC. œThe study had everything you could ask for in commercial space suit development; the highest performance space suit technology available, a large group of enthusiastic students and professors with excellent ideas, and a group of space suit engineers who can convert ideas into reality said Dave Cadogan, Director of Engineering at ILC Dover. œCreativity is part of engineering and ILC values this opportunity to take a fresh look at the ˜face' of spacesuits and to be able to offer our commercial customers a suit design that is remarkably theirs said Jinny Ferl, Engineering Manager for Space Suits. ILC will draw from the creative concepts generated in this partnership, and other work with Philadelphia University, and factor it into future space suit designs as the commercial space industry matures.
About ILC Dover
Since 1947, ILC Dover has provided engineered solutions to complex customer problems, serving the aerospace, personal protection and pharmaceutical industries. Known for production of space suits for NASA, ILC is a world leader in the use of high-performance flexible materials, allowing for unique solutions to meet customer needs. ILC's innovative products have been used on the moon, on Mars and around the globe.
To view ILC Dover's innovative solutions for worker safety, please visit our website at www.ilcdover.com for PPE solutions and www.doverpac.com for flexible containment solutions.
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