In space, you may not be able to hear people scream – but at least there’s now no need to dress so badly that they might actually want to. Not now Richard Branson’s space tourism venture Virgin Galactic has unveiled a partnership with Yohji Yamamoto’s Adidas label Y-3 to develop a new range of bespoke flight suits for pilots and passengers.
The two companies have been plotting the collaboration since December 2013, according to Virgin Galactic’s head of design Adam Wells, but went public this week at their Norman Foster-designed launch facility Spaceport America with the first fruits of the development – three prototype pilot flight suits constructed from the flame-resistant, tough hydrocarbon material Nomex, a close relative of body armour Kevlar. Y-3 is also supplying custom fit boots based on its GSG-9.2 German special forces boot.
The prototype suits blend conventional pilot flight suit design with a 3D pattern experimental NASCAR suit from Adidas’ innovations department – combining bonded seams with careful design to ensure comfort if seated for long periods of time, as well as stretch features to help reach overhead instrument controls, explains Lawrence Midwood, Y-3’s senior director of design.
The prototypes will be reviewed and redesigned based on pilot experience during the roll out of Virgin Galactic’s second, sub-orbital rocket powered SpaceShip Two – VSS Unity – this February. VG’s first SpaceShip Two, VSS Enterprise, broke up during a test flight in 2014, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other.
'At Y-3 we’re very inspired by uniform and work wear but to take inspiration from something is one thing – to try to provide a garment that experienced professional pilots will wear during test missions is something else,' said Midwood. 'The suit needs to be safe, bold, strong and confident – projecting security so the pilot is safe and comes across as a safe, heroic figure… who you’d trust taking your father on a daring trip.'