A real-life Iron Man suit has been developed that lets astronauts jump to Earth without a parachute – instead using rocket boots to soften the landing.
The design of the RL Mark VI is reminiscent of the suit used by Tony Stark in the Iron Man films and also comes with hi-tech augmented reality goggles, power gloves, movement gyros and is made using a commercial space suit.
It has been built as part of a joint project between Baltimore-based space firm Solar System Express and biomedical design company, Juxtopia who want to release a production model by 2016.
An artist’s impression of how a ‘space diver’ could look. Teams from Solar System Express and Juxtopia in Baltimore have developed a suit that could be used for space diving. It has been designed to be fitted with ‘rocket boots’ meaning the diver could jump from his spaceship in low Earth orbit and land without the need of a parachute. The designs are based on how Tony Stark lands and flies in the Iron Man films and a production model could be available as soon as 2016
The real-life Iron Man suit. This yellow prototype has been developed by Baltimore-based Space Solar Express Chief Technology Officer Blaze Sanders, pictured. Its made from a commercial space suit. It will be fitted with ‘rocket boots’ and tested at altitude by July 2016
The RL MARK VI would let people make high-altitude jumps from near-space, suborbital space, and eventually low Earth orbit itself.
Felix Baumgartner successfully completed a space dive from 127,852 feet above the Earth, in October last year.
His free fall took 4 minutes and 19 seconds before he opened his parachute.
The teams from Solar System Express and Juxtopia plan to carry out flight tests of the MARK VI in a similar way to how Baumgartner’s completed his dive, to see how the suit survives the fall.
They then plan to use modern ‘wing suit’ skydiving technology with small aerospike engines attached to the suit boots that will let the diver glide, move and land using just propulsion engines on his feet.
The AR goggles made by Juxtopia work in a similar way to Google Glass.
They are designed to give the diver information about altitude, elevation, acceleration rates, location – using GPS and Federal Aviation Administration radar information – and trajectory data during the jump.
Designs showing what the ‘rocket boots on the RL MARK VI could look like’. They will be fitted with small aerospike propulsion engines that will let the diver glide, move and land on his feet without the need for a parachute
In a video produced by Solar System Express and Juxtopia, the teams demonstrate how their space diving suit would look. The space diving video shows an astronaut jumping from a spaceship and flying to Earth before landing using rocket boots
It can also tell the diver if there are any malfunctions that could stop the boots from helping him land, in which case he could switch to using the parachute.
They can also respond to voice commands by filtering out other noise such as wind, air and engine sounds.
The goggles will not have the video mode seen in Google Glass though, and instead will use ‘Optical See-Through’ technology that is similar to the Heads Up Display seen on modern fighter jets.
This view places the information over the pilot’s view, instead of obstructing it.
As the diver reaches Earth, the mini aerospike thrusters in the rocket boots will kick in.
The ‘Iron Man’ suit will be fitted with hi-tech augmented reality goggles designed by Juxtopia. They can give the diver information about altitude, elevation, acceleration rates, location – using GPS and FAA radar information – and trajectory data during the jump. It can also show temperatures, heart rates, and warn the diver if there are any malfunctions that could stop him landing safely
Solar System Express is hoping there will be two different landing methods and plan to test both.
The first will be ‘a feet-down’ method with the aerospikes kicking in from an altitude of about hundred feet.
The second, and more similar to how Tony Stark lands in Iron Man, will see the diver use ‘wing suit flare up’ to slow him down.
The suit could be similar to the Iron Man suit worn in the hit series of films – and will even have a similar head-up display
The Iron Man suit as seen in the film series – which also has rocket boosters and allows Tony Stark to fly
The diver will then swoop within ten feet of the ground before pulling upright and lighting the thrusters.
The first live tests will be used during traditional parachute jumps.
Solar System Express plans to then fully test these landing methods at altitude by July 2016.
It is then hoping to launching a production model of the RL Mark VI later that year.
AN ARTIST’S IMPRESSION OF SPACE DIVING