Shima Seiki Mfg. Ltd has participated in collaborative research on clothing for use in spacecraft using its Wholegarment knitting technology.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency implemented the Open Lab system in June 2004 as a scheme to realize a mechanism to facilitate participation in outer space activities. The daily clothing used in spacecraft developed under the collaborative research in the system for the “Unit for Outer Space Life in the Near Future” (Leader: Yoshiko Taya, professor, Division of Clothing, Graduate School of Home Economics, Japan Women’s University) and is due to be on board the international space station Kibo for the launch mission scheduled for spring 2008. The astronaut Takao Doi will try on the daily clothing during the orbit to check such issues as wearer comfort.
Microgravity conditions in outer space cause changes in body shape and posture (slightly hunched posture) due to shifts in body water. Development of clothing that can concurrently offer a silhouette, manoeuvrability, and low load features to accommodate these environmental changes has been required.
Astronauts cannot avoid athletic activities and sweating due to the need to exercise using equipment to maintain muscle strength under conditions that exist in outer space where taking a shower is limited. Therefore, clothing should accommodate a healthy, comfortable daily life.
The Company believes that data and know-how obtained from this on-orbit experience will accommodate the severe space environment and contribute to further qualitative improvement in user-friendly knitwear, which is a feature of Wholegarment.
Features of Wholegarment technology
○Finish with lighter weight (approximately 5% of gross weight can be reduced due to seam allowance-free features)
○Higher mobility (easy mobility with good comfort due to lack of strain and stimulation on the skin caused by seam allowance) compared to traditional clothing
○Seam allowance-free feature leaves elasticity in the knitted fabric unchanged and properly accommodates changes in body shape caused by the shift in body fluids in outer space
○Seam allowance-free feature avoids generation of yarn waste
Ideas devised for clothing worn in outer space
○Silhouette in consideration of a neutral posture in the space
○Facilitate evaporation of sweat using a mesh structure of knitted fabrics in the back and underarms of sportswear (with color scheme but without seam allowance for cutover)
○Socks with thick soles to retain moisture
○Necessary processing including antimicrobial, deodorization, or water absorption processing depending on the purpose of use of the respective items
Companies which participated in the “Unit for Outer Space Life in the Near Future” were: Goldwin Technical Center, Inc., Toray Industries, Inc., Kuraray Fastening Co., Ltd., Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation and Shima Seiki Mfg., Ltd.
Author: Billy Hunter