At first, Nikolay Moiseev, a long-time Russian Federal Space Agency employee, and Ted Southern, a costume designer who was the first to dress Victoria’s Secret models in angel wings, don’t seem like an obvious pairing. But to hear them talk about their shared passions--engineering, materials, and space suits--it suddenly starts to make sense. The two met in 2009, at a NASA competition to design a better space-suit glove, and went on to found Brooklyn-based Final Frontier Design, where they are prototyping lighter, cheaper space suits aimed at the burgeoning commercial space flight industry, led by Virgin Galactic and SpaceX.
Yesterday, Southern and Moiseev exceeded their funding goal for their Third Generation Spacesuit on Kickstarter by almost $10,000. Almost 400 people pledged support to help them develop the suit, which will support intra-vehicular travel--activities that take place inside the spacecraft. Their Third Gen suit will build on the past two generations of suits: It will support a higher operating pressure, Moiseev explains, with lower-cost materials. Improvements on the gloves, joint details, visor, and overall weight of the suit are also part of the redesign.
If the design can get past NASA’s certification judges, it could be a major leap forward for the industry. At $50,000, the 3G suit will be vastly less expensive than NASA’s standard intra-vehicular suit, which costs five times that. It will also be lighter, which is equally important--in space flight, every gram of weight that must be launched into orbit costs exorbitant amounts of money. What’s more, a win for FFD would be a flagship success for other startup aerospace engineers, who work in the shadow of NASA.
“It’s been a nerve wracking trip,” Southern tells Co.Design over email, the day after their funding campaign ended. “We have a lot to live up to now, and are very, very excited to be moving forward with the company, but it means a great deal of work in the coming months for us.” What’s first? A larger studio, but not far from their roots in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. “We’ll be moving into a larger, more suitable space in the Bklyn Navy Yard next month,” puns Southern, who explained to the Brooklyn Paper that while a New York-based aerospace company is definitely unusual, “it’s the center of the world, so it’s hard to beat being here.”
Their campaign may be over, but FFD’s pitch video is worth a look--it’s interesting, and incredibly endearing, compared to the slick, over-produced videos that have become the norm on the crowdfunding site.