Space suits, bomb suits, it is not what suits in fashion terms – it is how they protect!

Today Friday 15 January is a momentous day, in fact literally out of this world.

 

British astronaut Major Tim Peake will be carrying out his first spacewalk. At 12:55 GMT he will step outside of the International Space Station for the first time for around six hours. This led us to wonder if the space suits he is wearing has any similarities to bomb suits that our colleagues in Explosive Ordnance Disposal face from Improvised Explosive Devices that they adorn. As to some while they both look bulky at first glance, they are necessary items of safety wear.

 

It seems that there are six basic requirements for a space suit. As technology evolves there are plenty of additional ‘nice-to-haves’:

1.     Communications system

2.     Stable internal pressure

3.     Mobility

4.     Temperature regulation

5.     Allowing carbon dioxide to be removed, while channelling in oxygen

6.     Ability to collect bodily waste

 

When you compare this to bomb suits, then there are indeed similarities. A bomb technician may have to wear a suit for hours; at least until the job is done in order to keep them safe.

 

The commonalities could be compared as:

  • Communications system. Bomb suits will often have a headset and microphone fitted to allow for either wireless or wired communications. Although, it is important that low levels of RF are maintained in order to minimise the risk of the induction of spurious current into any potential IEDs present.

 

  • Pressure. This will be a different consideration as blast overpressure can cause trauma damaging internal organs and even tearing the body limb from limb. A bomb suit is designed to reduce the damaging effects of blast overpressure, heat and fragmentation. There is an inevitable trade-off in mobility as the levels of protection increase.

 

  • Mobility. There is a balance between mobility and keeping technicians safe within a bomb suit. An Operator ideally needs to be able to manoeuvre themselves and equipment during a manual approach effectively. Manual dexterity is something many Operators lack during what can be a very technical task. For example, under vehicle search has always caused Operators difficulty, however, unless you have eyes on you can not confirm an area clear. Given there is a need to have dexterity of fingers, hands may the only part of the body which are not protectively covered.

 

  • Temperature. Depending on the operating environment it is possible to have efficient and effective cooling systems integrated into an EOD suit system.

 

At Kirintec we are known for our electronic countermeasure systems like Mercury and REBUS and our range of EOD tools: such as disruptors to flying spikes.

 

Should your interest be specifically in bomb suits we would like to recommend the NEXUS E-Tech Bomb Suit. It provides excellent protection for the Operator whilst allowing for dexterity and mobility on task.

Protection against overpressure, impact and heat is of course vital. But if such protection renders an Operator incapable of conducting a manual action safely and accurately it could be argued the levels of protection are inappropriate.

We believe a good Bomb Suit should have a zonal armour system, providing:

  • outstanding blast and fragmentation protection
  • maximum mobility
  • flexibility
  • comfort

As for the removal of bodily waste comparison to an astronaut suit, I can’t really comment as each Operator to their own! But I believe it is correct to say that an Operator on task should only remove all (or parts of their PPE), on task when it is absolutely necessary to do so for access or safety reasons, when removal enhances safety and does not increase the chance of death or injury.

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