The Orlan Suit

The only Soviet/Russian spacesuit on display at Space Center Houston, the Orlan (sea eagle in Russian) spacesuit was developed by the Soviet (now Russian) aerospace contractor NPP Zvezda.

The suit’s design is modeled after the Kretchet spacesuit, which was intended originally for use by the Soviets on the moon. Crewmembers put the suit on by climbing in through a back opening and closing it behind them.

This Orlan suit is outfitted with a cosmonaut maneuvering unit, or the “flying armchair.” The “armchair” was flown only twice from the Soviet (later Russian) space station Mir in February 1990 and was discontinued in favor of a simpler system using cranes and tethers. Mir operated from 1986 to 2001. Two Orlan suits similar to this one still are used onboard the International Space Station.

The suit’s life support and temperature are controlled and monitored with a control panel on the arm. A liquid-crystal display provides information about the suit’s systems and supply levels. Many of the characters are written backwards so a cosmonaut can view them with a mirror attached at the wrist.

The control units were operated by hand to maneuver in space. Toggles on each control unit operated the yaw, pitch and roll of the space suit. The controls also have a gauge which displays how much propellant remains in the pack.

Each set of blue steel circles are nozzles which released compressed nitrogen to propel the spacewalker. During the tests, cosmonauts floated up to 132 feet away from Mir. The original backpack remained on Mir and was destroyed when Mir re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere as planned.

The Orlan Suit is on loan from Art Dula. See it in Space Center Houston’s Astronaut Gallery.