Yulia Stern

Oktober / October - 2019

Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach



Polymorph is a concept of a mechanical counter pressure (MCP) suit for space tourists, that can be worn inside the scape craft (IVA), during extravehicular activities (EVA) and in case of an emergency, a "universal" space garment.

What is the Topic?

For decades spacemen and spacewomen have been exploring the immediate vicinity of Earth (578 people by 2019). The first space hotel (Van Braun Station of Gateway Foundation) shall be complete by the year 2025 and become the first low Earth orbit destination for nonprofessional astronauts. However, space travel contains high physical risks, and the current state of technology of space suits has to provide a better user experience especially for untrained lay visitors and habitants of space facilities, in order to render the stay in space safer and more pleasant experience. The suits that are currently used, were developed for professional astronauts and are not suitable for mass use.

Why does it look like this?

The harsh environment of open space and the unforeseeable nature of technical emergencies of space vehicles require the use of life-supporting clothing that ensures the survival of the crew. It has to provide its wearer with pressure maintenance, oxygen supply, heat control and radiation protection. All commonly used space suits are gas pressure suits. They create the necessary atmosphere (pressure, air and stable temperature) by enveloping the body like a balloon. Polymorph is a mechanical counter pressure (MCP) suit, so it exerts mechanical pressure directly on the human body and thus prevents decompression. Only the helmet is supplied with oxygen, which reduces the size and weight of the suit and makes it look more like tight-fitting sportswear rather than a classic spacesuit.

What is special?

Due to a highly compressive material composite with auxetic structure, this suit preserves the freedom of movement and flexibility of the human physique. Moreover, it adapts to a multitude of physical shapes of the human body (this feature is reflected in the name Polymorph: poly – multiple, morph – shapes or forms). This way it can be refurbished for multiple missions and more importantly for multiple wearers.

What is new?

Another crucial function of a spacesuit is to maintain stable temperature. In absence of air, the temperature fluctuates between -160° C in the shade and +120° C in the sunlight. These extreme temperatures are potentially fatal for the human body and hazardous for electronically systems. To prevent the overheating of both spacecraft and spacesuit, both have to be equipped with an effective cooling system and shielded from the sunlight. White color reflects most sunlight and absorbs least heat. Furthermore, the common EVA (Extravehicular Activity) spacesuits contain cooling systems that use circulating cold water to remove the heat from the body. This results in heavier suits and a risk of drowning in the event of suit punctuation. Polymorph suggests a direct transmission of body heat into space by light radiation. This makes the suit slightly shimmer and sets it apart from other suits in terms of its functionality and aesthetics.