Orlan-MKS spacesuit

Orlan MKS spacesuit. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak

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Russian cosmonauts to get new spacesuits

As the construction of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS, was about to pick up in the mid-2010s, the crews onboard the outpost would also refresh their wardrobes.

By 2013, NPP Zvezda enterprise based in the town of Tomilino, southeast of Moscow, developed a new version of the venerable Orlan spacesuit, which were worn by pairs of Russian cosmonauts during as many as 135 spacewalks. The upgraded suit was dubbed Orlan MKS, where MKS stood for "modernized," "computerized," "synthetic" in Russian.

According to the company, Orlan MKS included the following new features:

  • A fully automated thermal control system, ASTR;
  • A built-in computer;
  • An enlarged color display with increased viewing and informational capacity;
  • A pressurization layer made of a material with improved resistance to wear and tear, which would also be easier to manufacture.

Interestingly, this new polyurethane layer for Orlan MKS was reportedly purchased in Belgium. Thanks to its ability to withstand failure, developers could drop a backup layer, making the suit a whole lot lighter and more flexible.

The new spacesuit would have a flight warranty from up to six years and could be reused by crew members for 15-20 spacewalks, or EVAs, lasting up to nine hours. The suit could be adjusted to any cosmonaut with a body height ranging from 165 to 190 centimeters.

Orlan MKS promised to minimize time required to prepare a venture outside the space station. It would allow the cosmonaut to don the suit without assistance by other crewmembers.

Is it me, or it is hot in here?

However the most important upgrade in the Orlan MKS suit would be its computerized climate-control system. Although cosmonauts would still be able to adjust the temperature inside the suit with traditional manual controls, the new system was designed to monitor the intensity of the cosmonaut's work and adjust thermal conditions inside the suit accordingly. As a result, cosmonauts were expected to spend less of their valuable time and attention managing temperature during spacewalks.

The new spacesuit would be easier to service in orbit, eliminating the need to return it to Earth. (666)

When first described in public in 2010, Orlan MKS was promised to make it to the ISS the following year, however by that time, the introduction of the new wardrobe was postponed to 2013. As of August 2013, Orlan MKS was expected to reach the Russian segment of the International Space Station in 2014.

By the middle of 2021, the latest pair of Orlan-MKS suits — No. 4 and No. 5 — were used for a total of 15 spacewalks. Suit No. 4 was used in seven spacewalks and Suit No. 5 was worn in five spacewalks. The warranties for these spacewalks were expiring on July 27, 2021, and May 2023 respectively.

In July 2021, RKK Energia put the price tag for their replacement at around 370 million rubles.


Known specifications of the Orlan MKS spacesuit (as of 2013):

Service life in orbit
5-6 years; 15-20 EVAs
Cosmonaut body height range
165-190 centimeters
Spacesuit mass
110 kilograms
Autonomous work duration during EVA
7 hours
Absolute atmospheric pressure inside the spacesuit during EVA
0.04 MPa
Operational pressure in the main and backup oxygen tanks
40 +- MPa (with a temperature of +200 degrees C
Average heat removal capacity
300 kilo-calories per hour
Maximum heat removal capacity
600 kilo-calories per hour


Next chapter: Node Module, UM, of the International Space Station


Text, photos and graphics by Anatoly Zak; Last update: November 25, 2022

Technical editor: Nikolay Moiseev; Last edit: December 1, 2013; Corrections: Nicolas Pillet

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: September 7, 2013

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An Orlan MKS spacesuit. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak


An Orlan MK spacesuit, which preceded Orlan MKS on the International Space Station. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak


Final assembly and checkout of spacesuits at NPP Zvezda. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak



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