Single Person Spacecraft Is the Closest Thing to a Personal Space Car for Astronauts

Single Person Spacecraft 9 photos
Photo: Genesis Engineering
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As our civilization’s level of technological prowess increased these past few decades, incredible advancements in space exploration came to light. We managed to reach the Moon, we have sent an impressive army of robots to Mars, have reached the edges of our solar system, and we are currently embarked on missions to bring samples back from asteroids, and even change their orbits.
Most of the advancements made these past few decades have been focused on machines, though. The past ten years in particular have brought with them a flood of new rockets and spaceships that are currently serving the needs of governments and companies.

But there is one technological aspect of space exploration that has somehow been left behind in this race: the suits designed to protect astronauts during extra-vehicular activities (EVA), be them on the surface of some alien world, or out there in the void of space.

On the American side of the world, spacesuits were born in the 1960s, in the years that pre-dated the Apollo program. Being such a dynamic decade, and given how NASA was just learning what it needs to do to ensure people survive out there, the 1960s saw a number of different designs come into use.

First, we had the Mercury suit, which was used from 1961 to 1963. Then came the Gemini suit, on the table in 1965 and 1966, complete with a spacewalk variant, and then the Apollo suit, in operation from 1967 to 1975, and responsible for keeping Americans alive on the Moon.

The arrival of the Space Shuttle required a new spacesuit design, and that came to be in 1981, with a revised iteration surfacing in 1988, and in use until the shuttle program was cancelled in 2011.

Single Person Spacecraft
Photo: Genesis Engineering
But none of the above are as successful, in terms of lifespan, at least, as the Extravehicular Mobility Unit. Born in 1983, it is still used, with some modifications, by the astronauts going outside the International Space Station for various work.

All the suits mentioned above are just that, creations with arms and legs, designed to keep people away from vacuum, radiation, and other dangers while floating among the stars. They are not easy to get into, they are sent into the void through specialized airlocks, and most definitely they’re not very user-friendly.

One curios thing about space suits is that they’re overall design hasn’t changed much over the decades. Sure, new technologies or materials have started being used, but not even NASA’s upcoming Exploration EMU (xEMU), meant for the Artemis program and beyond, won’t bring a revolutionary new design.

There is one company that might be changing that. It’s called Genesis Engineering, and it’s working on something called Single Person Spacecraft (SPS).

In all actuality a pod of sorts, the SPS is not unlike many of the available one-person submarines we use here, in the waters of our planet. It is envisioned as a tool to be used for both servicing space stations and satellites, but also for exploration purposes.

Single Person Spacecraft
Photo: Genesis Engineering
It offers easy ingress, compared to the spacesuit, with a hatch opening at the bottom of the device. In the test version, it allows in people with a lower torso diameter of 24 inches (61 cm), meaning anyone fit to go into space. A large transparent bubble is fitted at the top, and the area it protects contains the thing’s controls.

The SPS can be attached directly to the spacecraft, and because it uses the same atmosphere as that, it needs no airlocks or special chambers from which it can be deployed. It has its own propulsions system (so far, details on that are pretty scarce), meaning it can move where ever it’s needed, and may not need to be tethered to the platform it departs from.

Depending on use, the SPS can be fitted with a variety of tools at the end of arms called manipulators, and even with storage compartments for it to be able to carry spare parts, or samples of whatever piece of floating rock it happens to be studying at some point.

The SPS has been in the works for some time now, with the first neutral buoyancy test (video below) conducted all the way back in 2016. We expect the first deployment of the technology to take place by the end of the decade, as it will be sent to assist with “routine operations and tourist excursions” from Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Orbital Reef space station.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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