Are spacesuits tailor-made?

Do astronauts have their spacesuits and helmets personally made for them?


Asked by Melanie Hall

While the Apollo space suits were tailor made to each astronaut, most modern day space suits are a little more ‘off the shelf’. Modern space suits are made from interchangeable parts in different sizes that can be ‘slotted together’ through a series of seals to form a full space suit. When an astronaut needs a new suit they are measured, and the correct sized parts (torso, legs, arms etc) are assembled. The helmets are also standard issue since they do not fit closely to the head of the astronaut.

However there are some things that you can not generalise, and since astronauts conducting a space walk will often have complex tasks to perform, it is vital that they have good dexterity and freedom of movement in their hands. As a result, the gloves of a space suit are custom made for each astronaut.

As for how many times it can be worn, it is a matter of total usage time during space walks. Each suit is rated for a certain number of hours of exposure to vacuum, solar radiation and micrometeoroids. The modular nature of modern suits also means that each part can be replaced as and when it is needed, making the whole process more economical. Once a suit or part of a suit has served its time, it will be used in astronaut training – so this expensive piece of fashion does not go to waste!

Image courtesy of NASA

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