What Do NASCAR and Space Travel Have in Common?

Posted on Wed, February 22, 2017

What do NASCAR and space travel have in common? Beyond reaching speeds that would give the rest of us whiplash, the two also share a very special fiber. Nomex® fiber is used in both spacesuits and racing suits. The fiber, made by DuPont™, is extremely flame-resistant and has many applications.

The Museum has two examples of the fiber in its collection. Nomex® felt, like this sample on the left, is used on the Space Suit Assembly Extravehicular Mobility Unit (SSA EMU), the spacesuit and primary life support system that astronauts wear when performing spacewalks on the International Space Station. The felting process makes the fabric very strong in addition to being flame resistant. On the right is Nomex® webbing also used on the SSA EMU. ILC Dover, the company that makes the SSA, donated both samples in 2013 along with other spacesuit components. While flame-resistant, the Nomex® fiber is used for structural purposes in the spacesuit. The material helps to create padding in areas with the greatest abrasion.

A sample of Nomex® felt is shown on the left, while a sample of Nomex® webbing is on the right. 

Many racecar drivers and pit crews in NASCAR also use Nomex® fibers in their race suits to protect them from accidental fire. Curious what other connections space travel and NASCAR share? Today, we’re webcasting live from the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, to take a closer look at the crossover in technologies between the two industries. The show from STEM in 30, Take the Fast Lane to Orbit: The Technology of Rockets and Racecars, will be live at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Join us live to ask our experts questions. If you can’t make it, a recording of the STEM in 30 program, along with bonus clips and educational resources, will be available shortly following the show.

Can you guess what else NASCAR and space travel share?