The idea of flight has captured the human imagination for eons. From the myth of Icarus to a world captivated by a trip to the moon exactly 50 years ago, flight as a means to explore our world and beyond has remained at the forefront for adventures, researchers, artists and dreamers. That sense of adventure continues today, as Sir Richard Branson and his brilliant team at Virgin Galactic continue to deliver on the dream of personal space travel, inching ever closer to the regular commercial flights to space.
Earlier this year, Under Armour announced it had taken the role Exclusive Technical Spacewear Partner for Virgin Galactic, raising the curtain on a best-in-class partnership. While Virgin Galactic worked tirelessly to complete the flight test program of spaceship Unity, Under Armour was tasked with developing the spacewear system for the world’s first commercial spaceline. As a brand built to make athletes better, innovation has always been part of Under Armour’s DNA, leading to innovations like HeatGear, ColdGear, Recovery Sleepwear, UA RUSH, UA HOVR and more. But going to space presents an entirely new challenge, so a dedicated team at Under Armour has been working in collaboration with the team at Virgin Galactic to deliver a spacewear system that is safe, functional and comfortable, putting its own twist on classic spacesuit and footwear to mold the way the next generation of space travelers will dress.
THE BASE LAYER
The UA | VG Base Layer acts as a second skin to the body, retrofitting Under Armour’s UA RUSH technology will enhance performance and blood flow during the high and zero G portions of flight. The entire base layer is built with UA's new Intelliknit fabric for total moisture and temperature management. From the hottest desert to the cold of space, UA Intelliknit provides temperature regulation and sweat management, making the impossible possible. The development process of UA Intelliknit is highly efficient and creates no material waste in the process - a testament to UA and Virgin Galactic's shared vision for a better, sustainable future.
The UA | VG Spacesuit is a deep space blue, with atmospheric light blue elements and pops of gold throughout, inspired by an image of the sun in space, casting its rays on Earth. The Virgin Galactic flight DNA symbols are embedded along the spine, symbolizing the unity of the suit with the mission.
UA Clone, a proprietary auxetic material that forms to the exact shape of the body for a precision fit and zero-distraction feel, is used in key parts of the UA | VG Spacesuit - namely the elbows and knees - for optimal mobility and comfort. UA’s HOVR cushioning is also incorporated into the shoulder pads and neck area, which are high impact zones during the high G portions of flight.
The liner of the spacesuit incorporates other new fabrics, like Tencel Luxe, SpinIt and Nomex, used for temperature control and moisture management, as Future Astronauts may experience a spectrum of temperatures throughout their journey. UA integrated all of the brand’s performance fabrics – cooling, smooth, fast-drying, moisture-managing, comfortable and safe – to ensure the Future Astronaut has the most comfortable experience possible. An important part of the suit construction included functional features such as multiple pockets for necessary and personal items including an integrated solution for communications, with a push-to-talk button. Each spacesuit iteration underwent rigorous testing with key stakeholders in the VG team including pilots, spaceship engineers, medical officers, astronaut instructors and the customer experience team to ensure it would outperform in-flight expectations.
The designers recognized what a transformative and hugely emotional impact the spacesuits will have on the astronaut experience. After spending time with Future Astronauts customers and the VG team, UA created a modern spacesuit that incorporates their feedback. UA added a clear pocket on the inside of the jacket above the heart for a photo of a loved one, and a patch unique to each mission that is removable from the suit to be attached to the Future Astronaut’s flight jacket for everyday wear; a jacket which will be presented to astronauts after each mission.
UA reinvigorated the traditional space boot to create something that is highly functional, but also carries through the same style and design elements as the spacesuit. Taking additional inspiration from racecar drivers' footwear, coupled with UA's most cutting-edge footwear technologies, UA mimicked the lightweight feel for optimum mobility, moving away from what we'd all think of as the big, bulky boot astronauts have previously worn.
UA Clone adaptive technology, also utilized in the spacesuit, forms to the exact shape of the foot for a precision fit and zero-distraction feel, while the UA HOVR cushioning, one of the softest foams available, provides support for a functional, comfortable and flame-retardant piece of footwear. All distractions have been eliminated, resulting in a sleek, smooth, soft boot with nothing to snag on equipment or other Future Astronauts when floating in zero gravity.
The aesthetic design elements complement the spacesuit, with the shades of blue and gold flashes coming together beautifully. The graphic on the sockliner reads, "We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants," inspired by a quote from Sir Isaac Newton that the Virgin Galactic program holds close. In addition, the Virgin Galactic flight DNA symbols and logo unify the full space kit.
The development of the spacewear system is the next step towards the two brands’ shared vision for creating a better future and more sustainable world through commercialized space travel.