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January 24, 2019

Under Armour takes sportswear into space with Virgin Galactic partnership

By Robert Scammell

US sportswear maker Under Armour will be clothing Virgin Galactic’s future space tourists and astronauts, the two companies announced today.

The clothing firm will also provide uniforms for Virgin Galactic’s staff at Spaceport America, New Mexico. This includes engineers, astronaut trainers, hosts and mission control operatives.

Away from clothes, Under Armour will leverage its nutritional expertise from its MyFitnessPal app to create an astronaut training programme that prepares passengers for space travel.

Around 700 customers have either paid the full price or deposit for a low Earth orbit trip on a SpaceShipTwo craft.

Tickets cost upwards of $250,000 per flight.

Last month Virgin Galactic’s manned VSS Unity successfully surpassed the 80km altitude at which NASA awards astronaut wings.

The first commercial flight is expected to be some time this year after more testing has been completed.

Under Armour in outer space

“Our partnership is built on the firm foundations of shared values, and it will be an absolute privilege to wear an Under Armour astronaut spacesuit on Virgin Galactic’s inaugural commercial space flight,” said Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson, who will be a passenger on SpaceShipTwo’s first flight.

The apparel itself is expected to be unveiled before this first commercial spaceflight.

Richard Branson shared the news on Twitter with a short promotional video.

Under Armour’s official role will be Virgin Galactic’s ‘Technical Spacewear Partner’.

“Working with Sir Richard and Virgin Galactic is an opportunity of a lifetime, one that has the entire Under Armour team across the world excited,” said Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank in a statement.

“This is a great opportunity to test our innovation at the highest level and continue to push the limits of human performance.”

Spacesuits for the Instagram generation

Virgin Galactic’s focus on areas that are less mission-critical is an indicator of just how much the commercial space race is intensifying.

It also highlights the different approaches between commercial and public space missions. The clunkier spacesuits worn by Apollo astronauts did not need to appeal to potential consumers, whereas private ventures such as Virgin Galactic must ensure that every aspect meets the company’s style and branding.

And with customers paying large sums to travel to space, they will want to look good when sharing their experience with friends and family on social media.

The same approach can be seen with spacesuits private space companies SpaceX and Boeing, who have both tried to balance style with practicality.