Under Armour spacesuits are coming to a space tourist near you

Kevin Plank and Richard Branson, having a good laugh about getting off this planet.
Kevin Plank and Richard Branson, having a good laugh about getting off this planet.
Image: Under Armour
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Under Armour is seeking clientele beyond athletics—even beyond Earth.

The US sports label and Virgin Galactic, the Richard Branson-backed space-tourism company inching closer to making commercial space flight a reality, announced today (Jan. 24) that Under Armour will design and produce the “technical spacewear” for Virgin Galactic passengers and pilots. Under Armour will also make uniforms for other Virgin Galactic staff, including engineers and mission-control operators, and its athletic-performance team will create programs to physically prepare astronauts for space flight and recovery. The companies will reveal the full line of clothing and footwear later this year, ahead of Branson’s inaugural space flight.

Given its history of making performance gear for athletes, Under Armour should be suited to the technical aspects of creating clothes for space travel. The task will bring some unique challenges though. While the requirements aren’t as rigorous as those for suits to protect astronauts who work outside a spacecraft, dressing for extraterrestrial travel isn’t as simple as throwing on comfortable activewear.

“The average space traveler will need something to wear inside in case of an emergency, either when getting up and down again in a rocket or during tricky maneuvers like docking,” Quartz’s Tim Fernholz has previously explained. “These are called IVA—intra-vehicular activity—suits, or simply pressure suits. As space travel moves farther from its roots in military technology and scientific exploration and becomes more commercial, passengers will require a pressure suit that’s more effective, comfortable—and, heck, stylish.”

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has previously teased its own pressurized flight suits. The design team, Musk said, wrestled with balancing “[a]esthetics and function.” Apparently nobody wants to look schlubby during space flight.

Branson said in a statement that Virgin has a great relationship with Under Armour, and he has a personal friendship with its founder and CEO, Kevin Plank. “I’ve loved [Under Armour’s] determination to push technical boundaries in order to improve performance, so could not have been more pleased when Kevin and his talented teams stepped up to the considerable task of creating a range of space apparel and performance programmes for Virgin Galactic,” Branson said.