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A7LB Suit

A7LB Suit
Credit: NASA

ILC Dover spacesuit used for the Apollo and Skylab programs, operational 1968. Hamilton Standard had overall development responsibility for the Apollo suit and associated portable life support system. A subcontract was awarded to International Latex Corporation for development of this suit.

Status: operational 1968. Gross mass: 48 kg (105 lb).

After suit development was completed, the production contract was awarded to International Latex, and the initial suit was designated A5L. The A6L design incorporated a thermal/ meteoroid garment. This was never flown. Following the Apollo fire, the suit was redesigned to eliminate flammable materials and was designated A7L (designation A8L was never used).

Each Apollo astronaut had three custom fitted A7L suits - one for flight, one for training, and one for flight back-up. The Apollo suit weighed 22 kg and its PLSS Portable Life Support System, 26 kg. The A7LB modification was used for Apollo J series lunar landing missions. The A7LB with an additional thermal garment was used for Skylab. Apollo ASTP, with no EVA requirements, reverted to the original design.

Walking on the Moon's surface a quarter million miles away from Earth presented a new set of problems to spacesuit designers. Not only did the Moon explorers' spacesuits had to offer protection from jagged rocks and the searing heat of the lunar day, but the suits also had to be flexible enough to permit stooping and bending as Apollo crewmen gathered samples from the Moon, set up scientific data stations at each landing site, and used the lunar rover vehicle, an electric-powered dune buggy, for transportation over the surface of the Moon.

The additional hazard of micrometeoroids that constantly pelt the lunar surface from deep space was met with an outer protective layer on the Apollo spacesuit. A backpack portable life support system provided oxygen for breathing, suit pressurization, and ventilation for moonwalks lasting up to 7 hours, Apollo spacesuit mobility was improved over earlier suits by use of bellows-like molded rubber joints at the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. Modifications to the suit waist for Apollo 15 through 17 missions added flexibility making it easier for crewmen to sit on the lunar rover vehicle.

From the skin out, the Apollo A7LB spacesuit began with an astronaut-worn liquid-cooling garment, similar to a pair of long-johns with a network of spaghetti-like tubing sewn onto the fabric. Cool water, circulating through the tubing, transferred metabolic heat from the Moon explorer's body to the backpack and then to space.

Next came a comfort and donning improvement layer of lightweight nylon, followed by a gas-tight pressure bladder of Neoprene-coated nylon or bellows-like molded joints components, a nylon restraint layer to prevent the bladder from ballooning, a lightweight thermal superinsulation of alternating layers of thin Kapton and glass-fiber cloth, several layers of Mylar and spacer material, and finally, protective outer layers of Teflon-coated glass-fiber Beta cloth.

Apollo space helmets were formed from high-strength polycarbonate and were attached to the spacesuit by a pressure-sealing neck ring. Unlike Mercury and Gemini helmets, which were closely fitted and moved with the crewman's head, the Apollo helmet was fixed and the head was free to move within. While walking on the Moon, Apollo crewmen wore an outer visor assembly over the polycarbonate helmet to shield against eye-damaging ultraviolet radiation, and to maintain head and face thermal comfort. Completing the Moon explorer's ensemble were lunar gloves and boots, both designed for the rigors of exploring, and the gloves for adjusting sensitive instruments.

The lunar surface gloves consisted of integral structural restraint and pressure bladders, molded from casts of the crewmen's hands, and covered by multi-layered superinsulation for thermal and abrasion protection. Thumb and fingertips were molded of silicone rubber to permit a degree of sensitivity and "feel." Pressure-sealing disconnects, similar to the helmet-to-suit connection, attached the gloves to the spacesuit arms.

The lunar boot was actually an overshoe that the Apollo lunar explorer slipped on over the integral pressure boot of the spacesuit. The outer layer of the lunar boot was made from metal-woven fabric, except for the ribbed silicone rubber sole; the tongue area was made from Teflon-coated glass-fiber cloth. The boot inner layers were made from Teflon-coated glass-fiber cloth followed by 25 alternating layers of Kapton film and glass-fiber cloth to form an efficient, lightweight thermal insulation.

Wardrobe for Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz

Nine Skylab crewmen manned the Nation's first space station for a total of 171 days during 1973 and 1974.

They wore simplified versions of the Apollo spacesuit while doing the historic repair of the Skylab and changing film canisters in the solar observatory cameras. Jammed solar panels and the loss of a micrometeoroid shield during the launch of the Skylab orbital workshop necessitated several spacewalks for freeing the solar panels and for erecting a substitute shield.

The spacesuit changes from Apollo to Skylab included a less expensive to manufacture and lightweight thermal micrometeoroid overgarment, elimination of the lunar boots, and a simplified and less expensive extravehicular visor assembly over the helmet. The liquid-cooling garment was retained from Apollo, but umbilicals and astronaut life support assembly (ALSA) replaced backpacks for life support during spacewalks.

Apollo-type spacesuits were used again in July 1975 when American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts rendezvoused and docked in Earth orbit in the joint Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) flight. Because no spacewalks were planned, U.S. crewmen were equipped with modified A7LB intravehicular Apollo spacesuits fitted with a simple cover layer replacing the thermal micrometeoroid layer.


ILC Industries, Inc., through its Dover/Frederica Division in Delaware, was the prime NASA contractor for design, development, and manufacture of space suits for the Apollo and Skylab Programs. These suits afford the necessary safety, comfort and mobility to the astronauts during Apollo and Skylab missions.

Space suit development was a tribute to American Industry. Du Pont, the world's largest chemical corporation, developed materials used in 20 of the 21 layers in the ILC Industries space suit. None of these materials were developed with the moon in mind. Some were new materials, like "Kapton" film. Others, such as nylon, were discovered more than thirty years earlier by scientists who had no idea of the distance the results of their research would travel some day. Achievements in science were often put to use in unexpected places. In the case of the space suit, materials which were developed for use on earth ultimately found a place on the moon.

The space suit was an airtight anthropomorphic structure called the Pressure Garment Assembly or PGA. In the space suit, the astronaut was protected from the extreme range of temperatures, the near vacuum of space and the micrometeoroid flux density that might be encountered in space or on the moon's surface. Without this protection, a man could not live, and would die within seconds after being exposed to such hostile environments. There were two basic configurations of the suit used to support Apollo Missions: an Intravehicular (IV) configuration designated as the CMP A7LB PGA, and an Extravehicular (EV) configuration identified as the EV A7LB PGA. The CMP A7LB pressure garment configuration was worn by the Command Module Pilot. The EV A&B configuration was worn by the Crew Commander and the Lunar Module Pilot. A slightly modified version of the EV A7LB PGA was used during Skylab missions.

The pressure garment assembly interfaced with the spacecraft environmental control system, or the Apollo Portable Life Support System (PLSS) or the Skylab Astronaut Life Support Assembly (ALSA). The pressure garment was operational at differential pressures of 3.70 to 3.90 pounds per square inch; in temperatures of -290 to +310 degrees Fahrenheit for Apollo missions or -180 to +277 degrees Fahrenheit for Skylab missions; and in micrometeoroid flux densities normally expected within the lunar orbit perimeter about the earth or a 300,000 mile orbit. The pressure garment permitted low torque body movements for operating spacecraft controls and specially designed devices required for space exploration or traversing the lunar surface. When pressurized, the differential pressures imposed stress or tension on the suit wall.

The "soft" suit became very rigid or stiff, and almost impossible to bend except in those areas where specially designed joints were provided to accommodate normal body flexure. An example of this stiffness: inflate a large cylindrical balloon or the inner tube of a tire, the balloon or tube would become very stiff and almost impossible to twist or bend. Without these specially developed joints for the space suit, it would be virtually impossible for the astronaut to do useful work on the moon's surface. These special joints were installed into the CMP A7LB suit at the knees, wrist, shoulders, elbows, ankles, and thighs.

The EVA7LB suit was further modified to include special joints at the neck and waist to allow bending movements in those areas. This added suit flexibility permitted the astronaut to conserve his energy, reduce fatigue and to work for longer periods on the lunar surface. Normal body movements in the suit caused the suit joints to bend. The force required to flex these joints was applied against the inner suit wall or gas retaining layer. To preclude direct wear on the gas-retaining layer, the suit was fitted with an inner scuff layer of nylon fabric. Entrance into the suit was made through restraint and pressure-sealing zippers. The entrance opening used in the CMP A7LB assembly extended down the center of the back, from the neck area to the front crotch area. The EV AMB suit employed entrance zippers that extend from the let t side of the waist, around the back to the right side of the waist, and diagonally up to the right chest area of the suit. Routing of the zippers in the EV A7LB suit was changed from that employed in the CMP model to accommodate the new neck and waist joints. The entrance zippers could be operated by the crewman if required, but zipper actuation was normally done with the assistance of a fellow crewmember.

There were two protective envelopes employed in the space suit: an inner pressurizable envelope, and an outer thermal and micrometeoroid protective envelope. The inner pressurizable envelope was called the Torso and Limb Suit Assembly (TLSA); this assembly interfaced with a detachable helmet, and a pair of removable gloves. The outer envelope used for thermal and micrometeoroid protection included an Integrated Thermal Micrometeoroid Garment (ITMG), a Lunar Extravehicular Visor Assembly (LEVA) or Skylab Extravehicular Visor Assembly (SEVA), and a pair of lunar boots that were used for Apollo Lunar missions only. The torso and limb suit consisted of an inner comfort liner, a rubber-coated nylon bladder, and an outer nylon restraint structure with the exception of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, thigh and knee joints. These joints were single wall, integrated restraint and bladder, bellows-like structures.

The Thermal Micrometeoroid Garment (ITMG) was composed of an inner layer of rubber-coated nylon, alternate layers of aluminized material separated by a low-heat-conducting spacer fabric, and an outer layer of fire and abrasion resistant material. This thermal cross section employed the same insulation principle as the "Thermos" bottle when the suit was exposed to the near vacuum of space.

The Lunar Extravehicular Visor Assembly (LEVA) or Skylab Extravehicular Visor Assembly (SEVA) included a shell assembly that fit over the helmet, and that clamped around its base. Two visors, two side-eyeshades, and a center eyeshade were supported by the shell. The outer sun visor employed a gold coating that reflected solar heat and light from its surface. The inner protective visor was transparent, although it included an inner coating that retained heat being emitted from the face. The protective visor was used without the sun visor during operations in shadow areas where visibility through the dark sun visor would not be adequate. The visors and eyeshades were adjustable and could be moved to positions selected by the crewman for his comfort and safety.

The Lunar Boots were slip-on assemblies that include a cross section of materials similar to those in the ITMG. There were additional layers of materials used in the boot sole as necessary to reduce the transfer of heat from the lunar surface to the foot. Metal-woven fabric or "Chromel-R" formed the outer shell of the boots to resist high lunar surface temperatures and surface abrasion. The outer structure of the boots in the sole consisted of silicone rubber that was sewn to the outer metal fabric shell and afforded improved wear and thermal protection to the boots.

For each PGA, there were two pairs of gloves used to support Apollo and Skylab missions: Intravehicular (IV) Gloves and Extravehicular (EV) Gloves. The IV Glove was a single-wall restraint and bladder structure formed to fit the crewman's hand. For scuff protection and added structural support, an outer gauntlet and palm restraint system was fitted over the glove. The palm restraint afforded improved hand dexterity for operating spacecraft controls and special devices. The EV Glove included an IV Glove that was fitted with an outer thermal glove that employed a similar cross section to that of the ITMG. For abrasion and thermal protection, the outer shell was constructed of metal-woven fabric, and the fingertips were fitted with silicone rubber caps.

The outer thermal glove extended well back over the IV glove-TLSA juncture. Gaseous oxygen was circulated through the suit by the PLSS (backpack) or ALSA, or the spacecraft environmental control system for respiration, pressurization, and ventilation purposes. The oxygen was directed to the helmet from inlet gas connectors on the suit, down over the body, to the arm and leg extremities, and then was directed through ducts to the exhaust gas connectors. The impurities were removed from the gas stream as it passed through the spacecraft environmental control system or portable life support system, and then was recirculated through the suit. The ventilation system removed body heat from within the suit during intravehicular operations, or when free space EV activities were performed remote from the spacecraft.

During lunar surface excursions the metabolic heat generated by the body exceeded the capability of the ventilation system, so a liquid cooling system was employed which removed the major portion of body heat from within the PGA; thereby reducing fatigue as a result of body dehydration through perspiration.

The Liquid Cooling Garment (LCG) consisted of a network of polyvinyl tubing that was supported by spandex fabric. The garment was worn next to the skin and covered the entire body exclusive of the head and hands. A liquid coolant or water was circulated through the tubing from the portable life support system. In the suit, heat was transferred from the body to the liquid through the tubing wall, and in the portable life support system, the heat was removed from the liquid before it was recirculated back to the LCG.

Providing the spacesuit for the Apollo & Skylab Programs was just one part that ILC played in the role of protecting man from hazardous environments. ILC Industries, Inc. was proud of its role in the space program and vigorously supported the ever-expanding field of aerospace technology. We had over twenty years of experience in research, development, and manufacture of air-inflated assemblies, pressure vessels and life support systems. This experience provided a sound base for our continuing research, development and design of aerospace life support equipment, and had given ILC its place as the leader in this field.


A4H American space suit, tested 1963. ILC Dover and Hamilton Standard full pressure suit, Contained a secondary bladder and restraint with a wrist cuff/dam for NASA/HSD (1963-1964), modified A4H suit for NASA-AMES (1964-1965).

AX5L American space suit, tested 1964. NASA Apollo suit prototype, rated for intravehicular activity only.

AX-1C American space suit, tested 1965. Full pressure, Apollo Block II prototype suit for both IVA/EVA by the David Clark Company. Not put into production.

Family: Space Suits. Country: USA. Agency: NASA, ILC Dover. Bibliography: 16, 2508, 2509, 2510, 2511, 2512, 2513, 2514, 2515, 2516, 66.
Photo Gallery

A7LB Suit DiagramA7LB Suit Diagram
Credit: ILC Dover

Artist's concept of prototype of Apollo Space suit
Credit: NASA

Space suit A-3H-024 with Lunar Excursion Module astronaut restraint harness
Credit: NASA

Astronaut John Bull wears newly designed Apollo pressure suit
Credit: NASA

Skylab 4Skylab 4
Astronaut Gerald Carr during EVA on Skylab 4
Credit: NASA

Apollo 16 crewmanApollo 16 crewman
Apollo 16 crewman demonstrated 1/6 G
Credit: NASA

Apollo 12Apollo 12
Surveyor 3 with astronaut; Apollo 12 Lunar Module in the background
Credit: NASA

Skylab 3Skylab 3
Skylab Astronaut participates in EVA to deploy twin pole solar shield
Credit: NASA

Skylab 3Skylab 3
Astronaut Owen Garriott participates in EVA to deploy twin pole solar shield
Credit: NASA

Skylab 3Skylab 3
Astronaut Owen Garriott participates in EVA to deploy twin pole solar shield
Credit: NASA

Skylab 3Skylab 3
Astronaut Jack Lousma participates in EVA to deploy twin pole solar shield
Credit: NASA

Skylab 2Skylab 2
Skylab 2 Crewmember During EVA to Repair and Deploy Damaged Solar Panel
Credit: NASA

Skylab 2Skylab 2
View of crewmen performing EVA taken from inside OWS
Credit: NASA

Apollo 9Apollo 9
Astronaut Russell Schweickart photographed during EVA
Credit: NASA

Skylab 3Skylab 3
Astronaut Jack Lousma participates in EVA to deploy twin pole solar shield
Credit: NASA

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