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Italian start-up REA wins the international Space Suit Design Competition by ESA

July 4th, 2023
One of the five winning designs was made by Flavio Augusto Gentile, CEO & Co-Founder of REA, start-up incubated in I3P and part of the ESA BIC Turin community.

The international Space Suit Design Competition promoted by the European Space Agency (ESA) collected ideas on what a future European extra-vehicular activity (EVA) suit could look like. Taking into account the extreme conditions spacewalk suits must withstand to protect the astronauts, participants were challenged to design a suit that is instantly recognisable for ESA astronauts: the competition, open to everyone interested in space and design, placed an emphasis on ESA’s visual identity and branding.

Over 90 ideas were received, and a jury of exploration experts, including ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, reviewed the proposals. Based on criteria including branding and creativity while maintaining realism, the ESA jury shortlisted 19 entries, and selected five winners. The authors of the best proposed designs were then invited to a celebratory event at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) near Cologne, Germany, for a tour of the site. The day included presentations on ESA’s Terrae Novae exploration vision and Spaceship EAC activities, including a lunar VR experience. The winners presented their ideas to EAC staff, including the astronaut candidates, and visited the facilities where they are currently receiving basic training.

The spacesuit design by REA

One of the five winning designs selected by ESA was made by Flavio Augusto Gentile, CEO & Co-Founder of the Italian start-up REA, which is incubated in I3P and part of the ESA BIC Turin community. Founded in 2022 and based near Bari, REA is specialized in design, research and development of clothing, wearables and protective tools for humans in space: its mission is to offer astronauts a solution to face long journeys in space without physiological and biochemical issues.

The company's main product is EMSi, an intra-vehicular space suit (IVA) designed to interact with postural muscle and counteract the effects of microgravity in space. Part of the system, made of a new elastic patent fabric, combines low hysteresis, high comfort, and antibacterial properties and generates a differential compression on the body. EMSi could be used for all microgravity missions and in the future for lunar exploration.

The future of ESA spacesuits

"Right after reading about ESA's Space Suit Design Competition we couldn't help but answer the call and send the mockups of our idea for an extra-vehicular suit, which was designed some time ago and remained 'hidden' in our computer folders for a long time. Then, one day we received an email from ESA: out of 90 applications submitted, the jury of experts - including astronaut Matthias Maurer - had selected our idea among the best five!", commented REA on social media. "We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to the European Space Agency, specifically to the dedicated experts working at the European Astronaut Centre, for the incredible opportunity to visit the facility where astronauts train for space missions. The tour has provided us with a renewed sense of inspiration and has injected fresh energy into the projects we are currently working on."

As one of the 10 jury members, it was great to see the creativity of these European space enthusiasts. There are many interesting aspects in their spacesuit design ideas which even positively surprised us sometimes,” said Hervé Stevenin, Head of EVA and Parabolic Flight Training at the European Astronaut Centre. “Watching them present what they believe a first ESA extra-vehicular spacesuit for astronauts could look like triggered our imagination to visualise this possible future key element of ESA’s space ambitions to put Europe at the forefront of space exploration. I am convinced that the time will come in the next decades when an ESA astronaut will wear a European spacesuit to further explore the surfaces of Moon and Mars. With this event at the European Astronaut Centre, our imagination made one small step in this thrilling direction."

The competition jury is now working on merging elements from submitted ideas to create an ESA-branded spacesuit design. This design could, in first instance, be used to produce replica suits for exhibitions or filmmakers, to educate and inspire people about space exploration and ESA activities in this domain. Later, the work could include using the designs to build training suits for ESA projects, such as CAVES and Pangaea or the LUNA facility.

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