Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ever Wanted To Skydive? Why Not Try A Space Dive Instead?

How many of you out there think you could accomplish what Felix Baumgartner did in October 2012 and go up to the edge of space- 128,000 feet above our planet- and jump? Would you like to go higher, or is that even possible? Well, it soon will be!

Meet Solar System Express(or Sol-X as they also liked to be called). These guys are working on developing a space skydiving suit that will allow thrill seekers to dive from the final frontier.

This suit named the "RL Mark VI" has a long term goal to allow anyone with the guts to leap from a height of 62 miles up(the official line marking the beginning of space), all beginning with jumps starting at 26 miles- just above Red Bull's record setting jump. A rocket will launch you high above the ground below and will allow you to see our world like never before! As you float around, strapped into your capsule, look up and see the darkness of space and gaze into the infinite universe. Now it's time to come home!

The spacediver will then unhook from his safety harness and take one last look at the Earth below as he begins his dive back to our planet. Small gyroscopes located within the boots will orient and direct the body while weightless. At jumps starting from 62 miles, the first two minutes of the jump will accelerate  the spacediver to speeds of 2,500mph while in freefall.  A protective one piece jump suit will both insulate him from the cold temperatures of space, and the 474D heat generated during atmospheric reentry.

Landing Techniques
1. The spacediver could land using a technique which is reminiscent of the systems used on the suit worn by Tony Stark in the Iron Man films. Instead of a parachute assisted landing, a wingsuit will be used to guide the daredevil back to the ground, before aerospike engines within the suit fire to act as a brake to make a safe landing(A parachute will remain in reserve).

2. The second will be 'a feet-down' method with the aerospikes kicking in from an altitude of about hundred feet.

3.  See what the jump will be like and find out more by watching this video.

Suit Spacefics
CTO of Solar System Express Blaze Sanders
 in the FFD Spacesuit
credit: Solar System Express

-The yellow spacesuit is made of urethane coated nylon, and a protective thermal covering will be fashioned from lightweight layers of aerogel, PICA-X and NASA Space Shuttle-like flexible insulation blankets formed into a garment that will serve as the spacesuit’s outermost layer.

-Small gyroscopes in systems boots will orient and direct the body while weightless.

-The suit will be fully fitted with a hi-tech reality HUD that work similar in a way to Google Glass contained within the face mask.

-It will allow the astronaut/spacediver to see how the suit is performing- providing him with information like altitude, speed and location above the ground. In the event of a rocket malfunction on the suit, it could stop the boots from firing, and a reserve parachute will be used to land safely on the ground instead.


The suit will be fitted with 'rocket boots' and tested at altitude by July 2016. Jumps from 62 miles will not be happening for at least 7 years, but Solar System Express have set themselves the goal of carrying out jumps from 25 miles by 2016.

What's Next?
The spacediver will jump from 62 miles up and
 land safely back on Earth 10 minutes later
credit: Huffington Post

To put it simply- the future is very bright! We are only at the beginning of proper full time commercial space exploration, and with private firms such as SpaceX, Bigelow and now Solar System Express getting bigger and bigger with every passing day, new ideas are being created all the time, so much so, that Blaze Sanders(Chief Technology Officer of Sol-X) is optimistic about what the exploration of space may be like in ten years time:

"I have a very positive outlook on the future.. I think at least 700 normal people will have flown into space with Virgin Galactic.. I think 10 or more people will have already been on Bigelow Aerospace hotels in space and at least 3 of the Google Lunar X-Prize teams will have tried to land on the Moon and I think one of them will have been successful."  

It's very clear from this that space, particularly low-Earth orbit will be completely different to what it is today. So far, nearly 600 people have flown into space via agencies like NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, so most people will dispute the fact that 700 "normal" people will have flown in space in a decade's time.

Outrageous as it may seem, one thing's for sure is that it definitely is possible. If it doesn't happen within ten years, it might happen in fifteen, or twenty- who knows? There's no denying though that it's an extremely exciting time to be involved in commercial space exploration, and as result, sometime in the near future, you may just find yourself 62 miles above our planet getting ready to jump home!