NASA’s new ‘Technology’ Z-2 spacesuit wins most online votes

1 May 2014

The winning design for the Z-2 spacesuit

The public has spoken and US space agency NASA’s new Z-2 spacesuit will be designed with Luminex wire and light-emitting patches, and wouldn’t look out of place in a Ridley Scott sci-fi epic.

NASA launched a public vote to select the design of the outer shell of its Z-2 spacesuit in March, with voting open up to mid-April.

Online voters were asked to select their favourite out of three designs produced in partnership with ILC and Philadelphia University. With 63pc of the vote, the ‘Technology’ design was a clear winner.

Almost 150,000 votes were cast for this design, which NASA described as paying homage to spacesuits of the past while incorporating subtle elements of the future.

More than just a fashion statement, the outer layer for the Z-2 is meant to protect the spacesuit from scratches and snags during testing.

The ‘Technology’ design incorporates electroluminescent wire and patches across the upper and lower torso, providing a new way to identify crew members on spacewalks. The design also features exposed rotating bearings, collapsing pleats for mobility and highlighted movement, and abrasion-resistant panels on the lower torso.

The prototype Z-2 is the successor to the Z-1 spacesuit, which was named one of Time’s Best Inventions of 2012.

The next-generation Z-2 marks several new milestones for NASA, such as the first use of 3D human laser scans and 3D-printed hardware for suit development and sizing, and the most advanced use of impact-resistant composite structures on a suit’s upper and lower torso.

A fully built Z-2 is expected in November, but will first have to undergo training and ground tests before the fan favourite will make an appearance in space.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.