From Apulia to space: REA's spacesuit EMSi flies the Ax-3 mission


Italian astronaut Walter Villadei will pilot SpaceX's Crew Dragon and test the EMSi suit by spacetech start-up REA Space, incubated in I3P and part of ESA BIC Turin.

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The Ax-3 mission by American space company Axiom Space is ready to take off from Cape Canaveral - specifically from NASA's Kennedy Space Center's LC-39A Pad - and fly to the International Space Station (ISS). The Crew Dragon capsule carries a 4-person European crew, including Italian astronaut Walter Villadei, Colonel of the Italian Air Force, to whom the Italian Defence Force has entrusted the 'Voluntas' mission. As part of this two-week mission, the officer will conduct several scientific experiments in microgravity related to human activities in space, some in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Thanks to the fruitful partnership between the Italian Air Force and ASI, an Apulian start-up, REA Space, will have the honour of assisting Colonel Villadei as he pilots the capsule, taking the crew to the ISS. 

REA Space, based in Fasano (Brindisi) and part of the Takeoff acceleration program promoted by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), is now incubated in the ESA BIC Turin program managed by I3P, the Innovative Companies Incubator of Politecnico di Torino, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and also supported by Regione Puglia through the Tecnonidi initiative by PugliaSviluppo. 

The start-up's flagship product is EMSi, short for Electrical Muscle Simulation: a suit for intra-vehicular activities in space, developed with the support of the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering (DEI) of Politecnico di Bari. EMSi can reproduce the same muscular stimulus the human body receives on Earth, effectively simulating gravity in its partial or total absence. 

Inside SpaceX's launch vehicle, REA will test the suit in its muscle-monitoring configuration. Through an innovative electronic control system, the suit will collect all data on the muscular activity of the astronaut, who will perform specific exercises in the Crew Dragon during the flight. Furthermore, thanks to an advanced fabric in graphene and carbon fiber, the pioneering suit will produce differential compression on the astronaut's muscles to promote the correct distribution of body fluids and guarantee comfort, freedom of movement, and antibacterial properties through silver ion treatment.

Reinventing gravity: this is the ultimate aim of REA Space. By participating in the As-3 mission, REA is flying its Made in Italy technological inventiveness into space, a crucial step in realizing its entrepreneurial and scientific goals.