Were there any spacesuit designs small enough to fit inside a suitcase? Such a suit might be useful in emergencies or as a backup suit.

Prototypes are fine. Okay to exclude the helmet if it is too big. Pictures are desirable.

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    $\begingroup$ Is the stowage location for the case of such a suit a "suitcase spacesuit case space"? $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ It has been a long time since there has been a suitcase-sized astronaut... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 3:48
  • $\begingroup$ If there was or is, I hope I'm never asked to wear such a thing. Most of the rest might but how could a space helmet ever fit into an average-sized suitcase, without the result looking at best like the first photo below? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 21:01

2 Answers 2


And as luck would have it, whilst searching for rescue ball images in the document you shared (Dressing For Altitude), what should I find but this:

ILC DOver ISSA spacesuit in a suitcase

As required, the ILC Dover ISSA concept fit into a small suitcase; the storage space could be halved if the suit was vacuum packed. Oddly, engineers at ILC had already investigated the idea of a suitcase spacesuit as part of a company-funded study during 1969–70

(ILC being International Latex Corporation)

Man donning the ISSA suit

I think this image is the "Briefcase Suit" which was the predecessor to the ISSA design, but "Dressing For Altitude" implies that this is the ISSA suit. If have a look at the images of the two suits in ILC Space Suits & Related Products, and you'll see the one labelled "ISSA" there does not have the funky flex joints that this one does, but I couldn't tell you which document is correct, if either. The ILC document does say "ILC would also name this next prototype the ISSA", so clearly "ISSA" applies to more than one model.

The designers largely based their ISSA largely on the Briefcase Suit developed earlier that year. The Phase B prototype weighed 10.2 pounds, including the suit, two arm bearings, gloves, boots, and soft helmet with integral visor. The garment measured 22.75 inches across the shoulders and 16.75 inches across the knees. The suit could be stored in a volume of 0.5 cubic foot, which could be reduced to 0.22 cubic foot if the garment was vacuum packed.

Following the Soyuz 11 incident, opinions changed about the nature of in-vehicle space suits, and the ISSA was deemed to have too little pressure to guarantee crew safety. Prototypes were made, but the suit never went into production and was not flown.

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    $\begingroup$ Now that's a spacesuit! +1 $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ Strangely, it looks like the suitcase had locks. "Okay, who brought the key?" $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 21:24

Depends exactly on your definition of a spacesuit, and the size of your suitcase.

There is one thing I'm aware of that you could wear, in space, and would fit into a fairly small volume.

I present to you the "Personal Rescue Enclosure", or "Rescue Ball":

NASAs first six women astronauts pose with a mockup of a personal rescue enclosure

Three prototypes were made, and people did train with it, but the futility of actually using such a thing when a rescue flight would be days or weeks away at best finally dawned on all involved and the device never flew.

I can't find any images of the thing before deployment, but as far as I can tell it should be fairly soft and squishy. The rebreather that the unfortunate occupant would have used would be the bulkiest bit, but should still fit into your suitcase-sized requirement.

Rescue Ball Concept

(source: Space Station Crew Safety Alternatives Study - - FinalReport)

Personal Rescue Enclosure

(source: nasa forum, no source given for image on post)

Someone entering a rescue ball

(source: a twitter thread by AeroDork, no source given in thread)

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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble you can wear it, you can go into space. Its even got a thing you can see out of! What more do you want? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ I'll count it. The curious bit is why they thought full suits were for men and rescue balls were for women. That would not be acceptable today. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ @DrSheldon unless I missed something, the balls were unisex? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ @DrSheldon isn't it more that you can't tell who is inside/getting inside in almost all the images, and there's the one publicity shot with all the female astronauts? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ A good friend of mine went through the astronaut selection process (but was not chosen - sigh). One test involved getting into something about the size of the rescue ball for a good length of time, likely to see how you coped with small spaces. He napped most of the time, and passed that test. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 18:53

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