Apollo XIX The Gondola

The Gondola

Staying in space demands a special protection. A cabin is needed which has to be designed and built with care. Fons constructed two steel gondolas that considering their mechanical properties were perfect. Weight however is an important factor, so the use of aluminum as a construction material could make the gondola 100 kg lighter. Preparing and particularly good welding of aluminum needs the cooperation of a specialized company. Thereupon he contacted the firm ELLIMETAL. This company is engaged with the design, development, manufacturing of equipment for the process-industry. A sector which gives very high attention to safety.

"One Person" Test GondolaAluminum GondolaGondola Hatch

To go out from basic Fons's data such as diameter and height of the gondola, the number of scuttle-ports and hatches, fastening-points for the parachute and passages for liquid oxygen and signal cables for cameras etc., the design engineers went to work. Fons had the intention, as with all his projects, to build a wide safety factor into the design. Off course, this was confirmed with a number of empiric tests. Dimensional and visual control was, among others, supplemented with 100% "Dye Check" and pressure tests at low temperature in a freezing cell. The gondola is 2 m in diameter, 2.3 m high and has five polycarbonate windows, which allow the crew to see out all sides. A large door also enables the crew to exit the gondola wearing a parachute, if need be. There are also several parachute systems to ensure that the gondola can always make a safe landing.

The gondola must of course give enough protection against the hostile environment in space. It is however important, especially during the ascent, to equip the crew with pressure suits. It is an extra precaution against the effects of a rapid decompression of the cabin. The arise of an important leak in the gondola is very improbable but the crew has to keep it in mind. Pressure suits are not stiff like space suits but are really special, flexible overalls with an airtight helmet. Their most important task is to build up the needed minimal pressure round the body and supply the breathing oxygen. At altitudes above 50,000 feet or 15,200 meter, man requires a pressurized suit to be safe in this near space environment. The suits are of course necessary when the hatch has to be opened to launch the 'space jumper'.

Fons designed the pressure suits and has the knowledge to construct the complex equipment.