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.
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.
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.
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 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.
VIDEO: AN ARTIST’S IMPRESSION OF SPACE DIVING
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