When you’re orbiting in the International Space Station at an altitude of over 300km for weeks on end, comfort becomes a priority. To help astronauts and cosmonauts work comfortably, NASA is supplying them with New Zealand merino wool garments from Armadillo Merino, a UK-based company owned by South Islander Andy Caughey.

These base layer garments assist astronauts in maintaining a stable core temperature, and the low odour properties of this superfine fabric mean the clothing can be worn for up to two weeks. With up to 100 astronauts training at a time, Caughey believes that their clothing needs to be suitable for both Earth and space.

“Armadillo Merino is flame-resistant up to 600 degrees, anti-static and has low lint production. This is important, as loose fibres can cause problems with the air filtration systems on board spacecraft.”

The company also supplies special forces, firefighters, police and top athletes with their base layer range, which includes tops, bottoms, socks and accessories designed for professional users. Wool is absorbent, breathable and non-flammable, giving it an added edge over cotton and synthetics. It provides soldiers with a safer alternative to nylon and polyester, which can fuse to the skin under high heat to cause life-threatening burns.

The New Zealand Merino Company supplies the wool, and Auckland-based Designer Textiles manufactures the range. With these companies behind him, Caughey is making a name as a specialist in merino wool protective clothing for high-risk environments.

“This T-shirt is the most advanced on Earth, and now we can say in space as well.”

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Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev (left) and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst show off their Armadillo Merino t-shirts while moving stowage containers on the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

By Emma Armitage, Business Analyst, BioPacific Partners

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