Tony Stark may be a fictional character, but not everything in the "Iron Man" films is completely outside the realm of possibility.
At least that much has been demonstrated by Solar System Express (Sol-X) and Juxtopia LLC, two tech startups that have collaborated to create a real-life "Iron Man" suit, which could be used for skydiving from space. Wow.
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Conceived in 2011, the RL Mark VI Space Diving suit would allow thrill-seekers to skydive from up to 62 miles above the earth's surface -- around the edge of space -- and land safely, using thrusters instead of a parachute.
Blaze Sanders, CTO of Sol-X, told The Huffington Post that the idea to devise a suit capable of such feats was developed after hearing about the Red Bull Stratos mission, which aimed to break the world record for highest skydive. (Skydiver Felix Baumgartner went on to complete the 128,100-foot jump in October 2012, breaking the world record for the highest skydive, which had been set back in 1960.)
After two years of research and development, the Sol-X and Juxtopia team developed a supplemental system that can be added on to any commercial spacesuit for a cool $55,000. The system includes thermal protection, augmented reality goggles, finger-tip controls and thrusters based in the boots.
But as the final product turns a suit into a space-diving suit, the suit won't be entirely like the incredibly high-tech ensemble seen in "Iron Man."
"We won't be able to have powered flight and fly through the air like [Stark] does," Sanders said, adding that the suit will also not have the power to stop bullets. "But the end goal is to have [the suit] land like he does in the movie."
So how does this all work exactly?
Using the power gloves, the user would be able to send signals to the suit's control device to change his or her orientation, helping to steady the fall, while the thrusters and wingsuit would allow for a vertical landing. The suit also contains two fail-safes, including a parachute, in case the skydiver needs to bail out mid-dive.
The team has tested the design only in the laboratory, but they plan to begin human skydiving trials starting at 1,500 feet next summer. Sanders expects the team will have a commercially viable product ready -- and hopes to reduce the price to $20,000 -- by June 2016.
Ultimately, Sanders said he envisions the suit will be used for fun, as well as scientific exploration. He also suggested the movie industry could find uses for some of the suit's technology, such as using the boots to ensure stunt doubles land on their feet during high jumps.
Blake Sanders poses in the RL Mark VI Space Diving suit, which resembles a real-life Iron Man suit.
This illustration depicts what the commercial product is expected to look like. (Illustration by Sol-X subcontractor Mark Maxwell)
The Hollywood "Iron Man" suit.