Introduction: Special Effects Space Suit

About: My name is DJ and I previously made electronic whatsits, 3D-printed thingamabobs, and laser-cut kajiggers for the Instructables Design Studio; now I build and repair puzzles for Particle Industries.

You may not get to jump around in zero-G with this space suit, but you'll certainly be the talk of the party when you walk in wearing this one! Combining my love of Halloween and my even greater love of space, I set out to make an interactive spacesuit. The spacesuit combines an Intel Galileo board and a mix of LEDs and other electronic goodies to display custom animations and play sound clips from your favorite space missions!

Step 1: Spacesuit Design Overview

The suit is composed of five main components: the chest piece, gloves, boots, a cap, and the suit itself.

Chest Piece:

The centerpiece of the suit is made of many different panels of laser-cut wood and acrylic that interlock with screws and nuts. A clear acrylic window shows of the Galileo for extra circuit/LED pizzazz. The chest piece is wrapped in strips of Tyvek to give it a nice crinkly-yet-clean and modern spacesuit look. The unit rests on the shoulders and houses all of the electronics to keep things nice and easy to wear. The whole system is powered by a beefy LiPo battery pack that should keep things running for a few solid hours. Everything is controlled by an Intel Galileo that connects to an 8 by 16 white LED matrix, MP3 playback module, and three buttons for basic user input. The software running on the Galileo has three main modes: Game of Life animation, audio clip playback, and scrolling marquee mode. By default, the program will show Conway's Game of Life on the display (I chose cellular automata as a nod to the search for tiny extraterrestrial life, plus it just looks so darn neat for such minimal programming!). The next mode will play audio clips from classic space missions through a tiny speaker; pressing the left or right buttons plays the next or previous clip stored on the micro SD card in the module. NASA provides great classic sound bites here. The final mode is a scrolling marquee displaying a custom message forever on the LEDs; the left and right buttons controls the speed of the scrolling. At any point, the user can press and hold the center button for a couple seconds to cycle to the next mode.


The gloves are a simple three piece set of hardware store finds. Black dish gloves rest inside of a plastic gutter adapter with Tyvek bunched towards the base for comfort and style.


Simple white rain boots make for excellent space suit boots. I finished them off with two large strips of Velcro to cover the fishing company logo and provide a nice contrasting band towards the bottom of the suit.


Rather than make a large space helmet that would make party-going conversation and Halloween food consumption awkward, a simple striped skullcap makes for a properly-themed head cover. This piece requires some sewing know-how (I decided to phone a friend for this step!), but a black balaclava would make for a nice, ready-made alternative.


A comfy cotton coverall makes up for most of the body covering. Flipping up the collar and ironing a wee flag to the shoulder tweaks things enough to make a more cohesive costume.

Step 2: Parts and Materials

Intel Galileo (I used a Gen 1, but Gen 2 is already out!)

push-button power switch

dual LED matrices

LiPo charger

6600 mAh LiPo battery

5V boost converter

enclosed speaker ( or any 4 ohm 3 watt)

SOMO II MP3 module

male DC power adapter

(3x) 12 mm push-button switch

(3x) 10K ohm resistor

1K resistor

half-size proto PCB

panel mount USB extender

(2x) 4 GB microSD card

6" extension jumpers

white coverall suit

white rubber rain boots

Tyvek paint suit

black rubber gloves

Polypropylene Downspout Adapter

flag patch

1 yard black woven stretch fabric

1 yard white woven fabric

white thread


plumbing coupler

clear scotch tape

electrical tape

1" x 6" Velcro loop side

2" x 36" Velcro hook side

2" x 36" Velcro loop side

(20x) 6-32 x 5/8 screw

(10x) 6-32 x 1 1/4" screw

(30x) 6-32 x 5/8 nut

(4x) 4-40 x 1/2 standoff

(10x) 4-40 screw

(10x) 4-40 nut

(6x) 2-56 screw

(6x) 2-56 nut

1/4" x 24" x 36" plywood sheet

1/8" x 12" x 12" black acrylic sheet

1/8" x 12" x 12" clear acrylic sheet

Step 3: Chest Piece Frame

I designed frame in Illustrator and cut it out using a laser cutter. The attached files above are designed to be cut out of a single sheet of 24" x 36" x 1/4" plywood and two 12" x 12" acrylic sheets (black and clear). There's no need to house everything in such a fancy enclosure, however, so long as you have a sturdy box that is big enough to mount the electronics and a way to attach it to your chest, you could make a different styled unit much more easily. The chest piece is designed with many locking Tee joints that use a screw and nut per segment. This is a fairly common method of joining two laser-cut pieces of material, and allows rapid assembly and dis-assembly of enclosures. For the corners a 5/8" screw is used, with the longer 1 1/4" screws between the outer panels. Along the larger screws are many wooden spacers to keep the frame sturdy. You can get a better idea of the construction from the top down photo. I also designed a large black acrylic sheet to act as a face-plate to hide the wooden base and the many small screws used to attached the electronics.

Once I assembled the main body of the frame, I cut up the Tyvek paint suit along the seams and wrapped large strips around the wooden skeleton. I made a large acrylic washer to go around the plumbing/programming adapter to seal things in nicely. For a final touch, I design some scifont/space style art to add to the face-plate.

Step 4: Chest Piece Electronics

The circuit for the space suit is largely made up of pre-made modules, so I made a hybrid schematic/block diagram to show the connections. There isn't a great deal of soldering required to build this circuit, so it should be relatively straightforward to build. I opted to bend long female headers into the Galileo's upright headers, this allowed me to plug in the necessary wires with the male-to-female jumper wires. The LED matrix module communicates over I2C and is attached to power and ground directly on the Galileo. The SOMO II MP3 module is powered by 5V, but communicates over 3.3V TTL serial (hence the 1K ohm resistor on the SOMO RX). I've attached the datasheet for this wonderful little sound device if you'd like to learn more about it. The main circuit construction comes from attaching everything to the half-size protoboard. I used the power rails to connect +5V to the SOMO and the buttons.

In order to allow easy programming, I decided to break out the Galileo's client USB port to the side of chestpiece with a screw-on plumbing adapter. The USB extender mounts to a small acrylic plate that it then attached to the inside of the adapter with copious amounts of hot glue. This doubles as a snazzy lookalike oxygen/fluid connector that you'd find on a real space suit. Charging is available through a mini USB port accessible from the face-plate.

Step 5: Chest Piece Programming

The code is written in the Arduino flavor of embedded C++. In order to program your Galileo board, you'll need to download the Intel version of the Arduino IDE here. If you're new to the Galileo, check out Sparkfun's excellent tutorial to learn more. Make sure to download the proper driver so the Galileo registers properly and be sure to upgrade to the latest firmware too. The board is running a lightweight distro of Linux called Yocto, so you'll also need to wait a short while for the board to boot up before it makes a proper connection with your computer.

When programming the Galileo, remember to always power the board separately before plugging in any USB cables.

The spacesuit program is attached above. I spent time making the code clear to understand and well commented, so it should hopefully be easy to read and understand! By default the marquee mode will display "Happy Halloween!," but you can replace the string with any message up to 255 characters long.

Step 6: Astronaut Gloves

Cut off the sleeves from the Tyvek suit and roll them up most of the way.

Slide the excess into the end of the downspout adapter. The elastic band should rest in the groove past the extension ribs.

For suiting up, put on the gloves first, and then slide your arms through the previous assembly.

Step 7: Astronaut Boots

Cut small pieces of loop-side Velcro and place them around the rim of the boot.

Cut two strips of each hook and loop side Velcro and stick them back to back.

Wrap the new larges pieces of double-sided Velcro around the boot to properly cover the logo.

Step 8: Astronaut Suit

The iron-on US Flag makes for a nice little flourish, but feel free to choose whatever flag (or none!) suits your cosmo/taiko/astro naut style!

Step 9: Astronaut Cap

You'll need to make a pattern for for the astronaut skullcap. The cap is made from three pieces of fabric: two stretchy side pieces and a white strip down the center. I didn't have access to a decent mannequin head, so I let a friend carefully pin around my head to get a general pattern down. You'll need to measure for your own head (hopefully with a proper model in which to pin!) for a good fit.

Step 10: Final Thoughts

This was quite the fun project to make and I can't wait to try it out at a few Halloween parties this year. With the installed battery, the digital fun should last a minimum of three hours. I've yet to actively test out the suit for vigorous wear, but hopefully it can withstand plenty of dancing!