By now you’ve probably heard that the helmets for SpaceX’s super-stylish spacesuits were custom-made for each of the two astronauts using a 3D printing process. This weekend you can become part of space history being made by 3D printing your own replica of the helmets thanks to a tutorial on popular maker website Adafruit.
The real SpaceX helmets were created by the talented Hollywood designer Jose Fernandez, of Ironhead Studios. As the New York Times reported in an article dedicated to these “tuxedos of space”, Fernandez is a costume designer who worked on Batman Vs Superman, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, X-Men II and more. According to the NYT, movie director Michael Bay revealed that for spacesuit helmet in the movie Armageddon he turned to “people around Hollywood that are […] expert spacesuit helmet designers. It’s a very specialized craft.”
To get the first prototype Musk went to that source rather than the usual Air Force and Navy contractors. The NYT reports that when Mr. Fernandez was first contacted he did not know what SpaceX was. However, he did have extensive experience designing helmets for movies, as shown by Ironhead Instagram page, including Tom Cruise’s helmet in Top Gun: Maverick.
Be like Elon
SpaceX made it clear that 3D printing was used to produce the custom helmets worn by NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken during the historic Crew Dragon launch.
It’s not clear what technology or materials was used for SpaceX’s helmets. FDM is a viable possibility due to the wider availability of advanced materials such as PEKK and flame retardant ULTEM and the low number of parts needed, however SLS now also supports PEKK.
The parts in the kit published on Adafruit are designed to be 3D printed with standard FDM based machines. The STL files are oriented to print “as is”, however they require tight tolerances that might need adjustment of slice settings.
The parts can further be separated into small pieces for fitting on printers with smaller build volumes. Note: a STEP file is included for other 3D surface modeling programs such as Onshape, Solidworks and Rhino. The Adafruit SpaceX Helmet was originally designed by Nathan O. The files are open to remix and they feature nice details. The parts have been modified to fit all of the electronics and available to download.