It has been a big week in headlines, and amongst Aussie sporting triumphs and 11am Gladys updates, you may have missed Sir Richard Bransons little jaunt to outer space on Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed spaceflight. Who would have thought that the world’s most beloved billionaire getting his Jetson on would barely register in the news cycle, but these are the times we live in, as unprecedented as ever.
And whilst a trip to the heavens may seem out of reach for the moment, it seems that the world is gearing up for mass space tourism with no official word on intergalactic border closures as yet.
In January 2019, and used on Bransons space getaway, the world was introduced to the Under Armour and Virgin Galactic partnership. Later that year, the next generation of spacesuits was unveiled with an emphasis built on function and comfort. Yes, space activewear.
The partnership took a solution-orientated approach by infusing functionality, comfort and safety into the cabin seats of the first SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity.
“Once functionality and safety was nailed down from a performance perspective, we really wanted to bring the Spacesuit to life with signature Under Armour flair and recognition to Virgin Galactic’s noble goals and epic achievements,” said Nick Cienski, Principle Innovation Apparel Designer at Under Armour. “We were able to incorporate the nostalgic elements of the classic spacesuit – not only from past space missions, but also iconic space movies – to redefine the way we think of space apparel moving forward and create something memorable and unlike anything Future Astronauts have ever seen.”
For their trip into the beyond, the astro-explorers on board Branson’s sky-yacht wore a base layer, space suit, and footwear all designed using cutting edge Under Armour technology.
THE BASE LAYER
The UA | VG Base Layer acts as a second skin to the body, retrofitting Under Armour’s UA RUSH technology and enhancing 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. In great news for those of use remaining on Earth, 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. CUTE! 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 Spacesuit – namely the elbows and knees – for optimal mobility and comfort. UA’s HOVR cushioning, traditionally found in their shoes, is also incorporated into the shoulder pads and neck area, which are high impact zones during the high G portions of flight.
The lining of the spacesuit incorporates other new fabrics, like Tencel Luxe, SpinIt and Nomex, used for temperature control and moisture management, as 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 astronauts have 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 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 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.
For the every day punter, going for a 10 kay run can seem just as daunting as a trip to the moon, although at my pace in particular there is no need for zero G tech. So Under Armour have released a new collection in celebration of the flight, with out-of-this-world gear to cater to the demands of our more earthly endeavours. As a brand built to make athletes better, this new collection is built to help you push the limits of human performance. UA’s RUSH and Recover technology highlight the product offerings available in men and women sizes, which includes a hoodie and crew top, pants and leggings, and a variety of graphic tees.