|The XMC-2 ILC Full Pressure Suit (1955-1959) was built under a contract with the U.S. Air Force and incorporated bellows and convolutes that greatly increased mobility. This suit laid the groundwork for the design of the Apollo space suits.|
Originating Technology/ NASA Contribution
Space is a hostile environment where astronauts combat extreme temperatures, dangerous radiation, and a near-breathless vacuum. Life support in these unforgiving circumstances is crucial and complex, and failure is not an option for the devices meant to keep astronauts safe in an environment that presents constant opposition. A space suit must meet stringent requirements for life support. The suit has to be made of durable material to withstand the impact of space debris and protect against radiation. It must provide essential oxygen, pressure, heating, and cooling while retaining mobility and dexterity. It is not a simple article of clothing but rather a complex modern armor that the space explorers must don if they are to continue exploring the heavens.
In 1947, before people successfully left the Earth’s atmosphere, ILC Dover, Inc., of Frederica, Delaware, the governmental supply branch of the International Latex Corporation, was manufacturing high-strength rubber rafts for U.S. Navy Seals. This product proved the basis for a succession of increasingly complex projects in the high-strength textile market. In the next decade, the company’s production of pressurized textiles brought it into the realm of creating pressurized flight suits and helmets for American U-2 spy plane pilots, who flew in extreme altitudes. ILC Dover’s success with pressurized flight suits led to its bidding and winning the space\ suit contract for the Apollo mission in 1965 with its AX5L suit—a modified, pressurized suit with woven restraints, air bladders, and wrist cuffs that still is used by astronauts today.
|The I-Suit is a highly mobile, soft extra vehicular activity space suit that accommodates astronauts from the 5th percentile female to the 95th percentile male.|
Since the early Apollo contract, ILC Dover, in conjunction
with Hamilton Standard, of Windsor Locks, Connecticut,
has designed and produced space suits for NASA. These
suits have flown on every mission, and ILC Dover maintains
a staff of 15 full-time employees at the Johnson Space
Center dedicated to fitting, assembling, and repairing
the space suits for the entire astronaut corps.
ILC Dover’s partnership with NASA to create the space
suits resulted in mastery of life-critical applications,
quality workmanship, and testing for high reliability
and safety in extreme conditions, as well as the repeated
analysis of processes and inspection. ILC used these
skills and the NASA-honed expertise to create a handful
of spinoffs, including work in the medical, pharmaceutical,
personal protection, and aerospace markets.
NASA also called upon ILC Dover’s skills recently, providing the company’s engineers the opportunity to spin some of their technical talents back into the Space Program. They designed and manufactured the Mars landing space inflatables for the Pathfinder and Mars Explorer Rover (MER) Missions. These large airbags cushioned the drop onto the surface of the Red Planet. In addition, they manufactured the landing ramps and continue to provide suits to support the construction of the International Space Station.
|In 2004, ILC Dover, Inc.’s new I-Suit, an extra vehicular activity space suit, was tested in Meteor Crater, Arizona.|
Through its work with space suit designing, testing,
and manufacturing, ILC Dover developed skills and processes
unique to industry. It has harnessed this space know-how
on numerous occasions and has developed several spinoff
products. The work ranges from therapeutic suits to
safe, efficient pharmaceutical manufacturing; to new,
simple-to-use, life-saving gas and chemical masks;
and to lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicles.
ILC Dover has engineered therapeutic cooling and heating
suits to assist people suffering from various maladies.
The Cool Vest, featured in Spinoff 1982, is a lightweight
cooling garment, designed to reduce the effects of
heat stress, that ILC Dover created out of its work
with the liquid-cooling systems used to regulate astronaut
body temperature in the space suit. This vest has applications
in rigorous industrial environments where elevated
temperatures can be debilitating. It also has been
used to lower the body temperatures of people suffering
from hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, a rare disease
in which the sufferer is lacking in sweat glands, as
well as to lessen the effects of heat-related symptoms
in people suffering from multiple sclerosis.
More recently, the engineers at ILC Dover experimented
with using the same radio frequency molecular stimulation
that they use to fasten space suit components together
to generate low levels of heat deep within muscles
for treating muscular stress. The stimulation caused
by this technique leads to deep tissue diathermy or
the oscillating of cellular muscle tissue for deep
warmth. Whereas a conventional heating pad applied
to an injury would only heat the surface of the ailment,
the radio frequency approach manages to heat the actual
sore tissue. Developed in conjunction with SeliCor,
Inc., a biomedical device company in Austin, Texas,
this product is now being marketed as SeliTherm.
|Mars lander with ILC Dover, Inc.’s deflated airbags that cushioned the rover’s landing.|
ILC Dover has pushed applications of its space know-how
into the pharmaceutical-manufacturing arena with the
creation of the DoverPac. Designed in collaboration
with pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly and Company, the
DoverPac provides high levels of reliable containment
during charging and offloading of highly active ingredients
in powder form. The system, a series of high-strength,
flexible, transparent tubes, helps get drugs to the
market faster while protecting workers and ensuring
integrity with its low permeability and many safety features. It is composed of a tough fabric outer restraint
and a durable liner made of the rugged ILC Dover-developed
ArmorFlex film. At the top of the many safety features,
this system offers increased productivity with a uniquely
designed crimping system that allows one-person operation
and integral sleeves that facilitate quick sampling
without breaking containment.
|ILC Dover, Inc. has provided over 1.6 million M40 gas masks to the U.S. Army.|
A great deal of NASA knowledge went into the production
of this product with the potential of revolutionizing
the pharmaceutical-manufacturing industry. First, the
DoverPac is manufactured at the same factory, and undergoes
the same scrutiny and rigorous testing as NASA’s space
suits. Furthermore, the heat-sealing technology employed
by ILC Dover to seal components within the space suit
is the same that is used to create the DoverPac, and
the woven restraint/bladder that contains the powderized
product mirrors the design approach used on the space
suit. The outer restraint of the DoverPac is made of
a grounded woven mesh to avoid static sparks near the
fine powders. This is the same mesh found on the inflatable
devices used for the Mars Pathfinder and MER.
ILC Dover takes great pride in knowing that it provides
state-of-the-art protection from chemical, biological
and nuclear inhalants for U.S. soldiers. Already the
sole provider of the M40 gas mask to the U.S. Army
and having equipped more than 1.5 million soldiers
to date, ILC Dover has developed a new civilian gas
mask, the SCape Hood.
M40 masks are the best protection available for trained
soldiers, but are not practical for the average person.
Traditional gas masks employ face seals that will not
work on bearded or unshaven people or wearers of eyeglasses.
Moreover, traditional gas masks demand multiple sizes
to fit the wearer population, require extensive training,
and are not designed for children or infants. The SCape
Hood, however, eliminates these problems. Due to its
unique design, there is no worry about size or seal,
and the device can be in place and functioning in under
30 seconds. As soon as the mask is removed from its
container, a blower automatically initiates and the
hood inflates with clean air and creates sealing and
positive pressure. Because of the blower, the unit
also can be used on infants and the unconscious. The
blower will operate for 4 hours.
The same heat seals used for the harsh conditions of
space bind the SCape Hood together. More important
is that the sam
e quality and inspection trusted to
keep the astronauts alive is employed to create this
life-critical product. The expertise gained from protecting
the astronauts from the harsh space environment transfers
directly to work in protecting people on Earth from
chemical warfare and hazardous material spills. Currently,
ILC Dover has sold over 60,000 SCape Hood units. The
company anticipates that the SCape Hood will be in
high demand in urban areas and in government buildings
|ILC Dover, Inc. manufactures 80 percent of the LTA in the world. Blimps, like the one pictured here, often fly over sporting events and vacation spots.|
ILC Dover’s use of high-performance, rugged textiles
has led it in yet another direction. The engineers
have been using their space experience to manufacture
blimps, aerostats, airships, and other LTA vehicles
since the early 1970s. In fact, currently 80 percent
of the large LTA structures in the world are manufactured
by ILC Dover at the same location as the space suits.
These structures employ high-strength seaming technology
designed and developed for the suits. Test methods
developed for the films used on the space suits are
the same methods employed to test the materials used
on the structures. The high-strength, ultraviolet-resistant,
low-gas permeability technology necessary to float
these crafts at high altitudes and not lose gas or
suffer damage from ultraviolet radiation is a direct
result of experiments done to determine the types of
textiles and engineered films best suited for the harsh
environments of the space landscape.
The LTA vehicles vary from the typical blimp often seen hovering above sporting events to the TowTech Lifting Sphere, a massive inflatable device that harnesses the lifting power of helium for use in areas where roads or rivers are not accessible. These LTA structures range in volume up to 4 million cubic feet and include tethered surveillance aerostats, advertising airships and blimps, passenger airships, high-altitude airships, and hybrid heavy-lifting vehicles.
DoveILCr has partnered
with NASA from the very beginning and continues to
support its missions. NASA recently called upon ILC
Dover for its expertise in the manufacture of extreme-situation
textiles, and the company responded by designing
and manufacturing inflatable airbags
|A technician works with the DoverPac system, a revolutionary, safe pharmaceutical-manufacturing system.|
In addition to developing
myriad spinoffs that came from the space suit work,
the continued support of NASA’s astronaut corps with
flight suits, and the work related to the exploration
of Mars, ILC Dover is designing another space suit.
This new suit, the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU),
is lighter and offers a greater range of motion than
the older suits.
Safety and quality are always a focus at ILC Dover. As an ISO 9001:2000-registered company, ILC Dover brings more than half a century of experience to the design, development, and manufacture of life-critical products. From space exploration to physical therapy, from defense to pharmaceutical, ILC Dover develops real-world solutions for a vast range of industries.
The challenges of the future are what compel ILC Dover forward. Man landed on the Moon—ILC Dover created the space suit. Researchers develop wonder drugs—ILC Dover aids in safe production. Rovers explore Mars—ILC Dover helps them land safely. With an enviable record of performance, a team of highly qualified personnel, and a sound foundation of proven and innovative technologies, ILC Dover continues creating what’s next through spin-ins and spinoffs.
Cool Vest™ is a trademark of ILC Dover, Inc.
SeliTherm™ is a trademark of SeliCor, Inc.
DoverPac® is a registered trademark of ILC Dover, Inc.
ArmorFlex® is a registered trademark of ILC Dover, Inc.
SCape Hood™ is a trademark of ILC Dover, Inc.