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Space suits in Vast Worlds are a fact of every day life, and like any device that is used by a lot of people in commercial applications it has undergone some serious changes from the rather primitive suits of the early twenty first century. Survivability, manageability and ease of use, all have been improved massively and as your suit is the difference between life and death in any dangerous situation, people just don’t skimp on these pieces of kit.

Most ships will have two to three types of suit onboard: fight suits, vac’ suits, and re-entry suits, and there is also a fourth common suit called an environmental.

Flight suits are the commonest type. Simple gas bags with internal reinforcement they are worn at all times while in vacuum in case the ship suddenly loses pressure. If this happens, seals will clamp down at the wrists and ankles and the occupant has ten seconds[1] to put on a helmet. Because on larger ships you may be a significant distance from a helmet the suits also have the equivalent of a plastic bag in the collar which can be pulled up and pressurised[2], though it is advised you get a proper helmet on as soon as possible as the bag helmets are prone to popping. Gloves and pressure boots are also advisable, but you have a minute or too to put these on before losing functionality so they are less vital.

Fight suits generally only have an hour or twos worth of oxygen and have no facilities for temperature control or extended use. Hence, they can not be used for more than a half hour in hard vacuum, but in a depressurised ship they can function for more than long enough to get all the holes fixed.

For external work most ships will carry vacuum suits, also know as hard suits[3], these are generally much bulkier than flight suits and designed for extended periods of hard vacuum. On board radiators, several hours of oxygen, manoeuvring jets and safety lines are all pretty much standard, and most will also have additional add-ons like inbuilt toolboxes and heads up displays. They do require quite a bit of training to be operated effectively however, so generally the only people to use hard suits are mechanics fixing something on the outside of the ship, and increasingly civilian ships are being designed so that they can be fixed from the inside.

Re-entry suits are similar to hard suits in form, but wildly different in function. As can probably be inferred from their name these suits are designed to safely enter an atmosphere from orbital velocities, and they consequently are used as the space age equivalent of lifeboats. Most are quite simple, boasting only an ablative heat shield and a basic parachute. The more complicated will control your entire descent and feature a reusable shield and the sporty models actually have nanofiber wings to allow for a little extreme entertainment on the way down.

Environmental suits cover the occasions where you have anything but vacuum on the outside. Spacesuits are notorious for springing leaks, seizing up and generally attempting to kill you if you try and use them in anything but vacuum or normal atmospheric conditions so environmental suits fill the void. Just what they are hardened against varies very much on where they are being used but the more general protections are against high pressures[4] and corrosive conditions[5].

[1] This varies depending on the rate of atmosphere loss.

[2] Ironically they are required by law to have a danger of suffocation notice on them.

[3] Whether they are hard because they have a supporting exoskeleton, or actually rely on skin tight panelling to avoid depressurisation is very much a design feature.

[4] E.g. Formahalt

[5] Venus.


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