A step towards space | Spacesuit in Textiles
Man has the passion to uncover the hidden mysteries from ancient time. This nature provoked him to discover beyond the sky. But, that was never easy to go beyond the sky to reach the space. People took a lot of steps to reach the space. At initial stage it was not seamed to be impossible. But some enterprising people’s continuous hardship made it possible. In 1957 soviet union’s Sputnik-1 and in 1969 landing Moon by Apollo-11 mission are taken as landmark for initial period. Even they have reached the Moon. And now preparing to reach the Mars.
Invention of rocket created the first scope to reach the space. But it was a big challenge to cope up with the rough environment of the space and other planets. In this situation textile engineering brought the solution. And Spacesuit was invented.
Features of Spacesuit :
A space suit is a pressurized garment worn by astronauts during space flights. Mainly it is designed to re-create the environmental condition of Earth’s atmosphere. It also protects from the damaging conditions in the space where a single sand can be dangerous for it’s speed. It is also known as extravehicular mobility unit (EMU) as it is used in spacewalk outside the spacecraft.
A spacesuit consist of many parts. One part containing upper and lower torso covers the astronaut’s chest. Another part covers the arms and connects to the gloves. The helmet and visor protect the head and ensure vision in the space. The lower part covers the legs and feet of the astronauts.
There are many layers of fabric in different parts of spacesuit. These layers perform different tasks.
Some contain tubes that supply oxygen to the astronauts.
Some protect from high pressure and strike of dust in the space.
Some contain electric conductors etc.
Under the suit, astronauts wear another piece of clothing known as liquid cooling and ventilation garment. It covers their body except for the head, hands and head. Tubes are woven into it. Water flows through the tubes to keep astronaut cool.
On the back of the spacesuit is a backpack. The backpack holds oxygen so the astronauts can breathe. It also removes carbon dioxide so that astronauts can breathe out. It also supplies electricity for the suit. A fan moves the oxygen through the spacesuit. A water tank holds the water tank.
A tool is connected to the back of the suit called SAFER. It contains several small thruster jet. If a astronaut floated away from the space station, he or she can fly back.
Fabric materials of spacesuit include a variety of different synthetic polymers. The innermost layer is made up of nylon tricot. Another layer is composed of spandex and wearable elastic polymer. There is also a layer of urethane coated nylon, which is involved in pressurization. Dacron is a type of polyester is used for a pressure restraining layer. Other fabrics contain Neoprene, aluminized Maylar, Gortex, Kelver and Nomex .
Beyond synthetic fibers other raw materials also have important roles. Fiberglass is the primary material for the hard upper torso segment. Lithium hydroxide is used in making the filter which removes the carbon dioxide and water vapor during a space walk. A polycarbonate material is used for constructing the shell of the helmet.
Spacesuits were less complex at the initial stage. In fact the suit worn by Alan Shepard on first U.S suborbital was little more than a pressure suit adapted from the U.S Navy high attitude jet aircraft pressure suit. Which was of two layers. But these gradually developed to five layers and then seven layers to boost protection in the harsh environment of space. And still a huge development in spacesuit technology is needed as it is planned to reach the Mars. Which is not possible without the help of Textile engineering.
So there has a great opportunity, we can play the vital role in developing this spacesuit technology.
And there has a lot of scope as Bangladesh is enriched with textile industries.