Astronaut trials innovative SkinSuit in space

October 14, 2015, RMIT University
European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen wearing the SkinSuit on board the International Space Station. Credit: European Space Agency.

An innovative SkinSuit designed to reduce the debilitating physical effects of space flight has been trialled for the first time on the International Space Station (ISS) by a European Space Agency astronaut.

The SkinSuit is the brainchild of Dr James Waldie, aerospace engineer and senior research associate at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

Denmark's first astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, spent 10 days in the ISS last month and pulled on the SkinSuit to test its effectiveness in the weightless conditions.

Inspired by a striking bodysuit worn by Australian gold medallist Cathy Freeman at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Waldie and his collaborators have spent more than 15 years getting the suit into space.

"Seeing live video of Andreas wearing SkinSuit on board the ISS was thrilling - I felt an enormous sense of achievement that my concept was finally in orbit," Waldie said.

Skin-tight and made of bi-directional elastics, SkinSuit has been designed to mimic the impact of gravity on the body to reduce the debilitating physical effects space flights have on astronauts' bodies.

In the weightless conditions in space, astronauts can lose up to 2 per cent bone mass per month. Their spines can also stretch by up to 7cms, with most suffering mild to debilitating pain. Following flight, astronauts have four times the risk of herniated discs as the general population.

"Given the impact of atrophy on astronauts in space, I wondered if a suit like the one worn by Freeman could fool the body into thinking it was on the ground rather than in space, and therefore stay healthy," Waldie said.

The special design of the suit means it can impose a gradual increase in vertical load from the wearer's shoulders to their feet, simulating the loading regime normally imposed by bodyweight standing on earth.

For the ISS flight, the European Space Agency wanted to explore if the suit could counteract the effects of spaceflight on the spine.

"We believe if we can reduce spinal elongation in space, we can reduce the stress on the intervertebral discs. This should help with pain in-flight, and the chances of slipped discs post-flight."

The suit underwent rigorous ground and parabolic flight trials before being selected for the ISS mission and also had to pass a spaceflight qualification programme.

As the inventor and a Principal Investigator, Waldie flew to the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, for the first on-orbit trial and said he was elated to see SkinSuit had finally been tested in space.

"It was really exciting but also very humbling, as there are so many people that have dedicated so much effort to this success. To share their passion, and see it all come to fruition, has been amazing."

SkinSuit has been developed in collaboration with scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kings College London and the European Space Agency. The suit was manufactured by Italian firm Dainese, best known for producing motorbike leathers for racing.

Enjoying his first , European Space Agency astronaut Mogensen tested SkinSuit over two days as part of an Operational and Technical Evaluation.

He took frequent height measurements, comfort and mobility surveys, skin swabs for hygiene assessments, and also exercised with the on the Station's bicycle ergometer.

Mogensen has since returned to Earth but is yet to publicly report his findings as he undergoes extensive de-briefing.

Explore further: Image: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet testing Skinsuit in weightlessness

Related Stories

Suit up for Skinsuit

January 13, 2014

The Space Medicine Office of ESA's European Astronaut Centre is managing a project that could help astronauts overcome back problems in space, simply by wearing a high-tech tight-fitting 'skinsuit'.

First Dane in space arrives at ISS

September 4, 2015

The first Dane in space arrived on Friday at the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a three-man team after an unusually long voyage from Earth, the Russian space agency said.

ESA's next astronaut to go into space arrives at launch site

August 19, 2015

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Soyuz spacecraft commander Sergei Volkov and Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov arrived in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, yesterday. This is their last destination before heading to the International Space ...

First Dane in space begins long trip to repositioned ISS

September 2, 2015

The first Dane in space accompanied by 26 custom-made figurines from Danish toymaker Lego blasted off from Kazakhstan on Wednesday as part of a three-man team on an unusually long two-day mission to the International Space ...

Recommended for you

Paleontologists report world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex

March 22, 2019

University of Alberta paleontologists have just reported the world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex and the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada. The 13-metre-long T. rex, nicknamed "Scotty," lived in prehistoric Saskatchewan ...

NASA instruments image fireball over Bering Sea

March 22, 2019

On Dec. 18, 2018, a large "fireball—the term used for exceptionally bright meteors that are visible over a wide area—exploded about 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the Bering Sea. The explosion unleashed an estimated 173 ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.