When Boeing shuttles astronauts to low-Earth orbit on its CST-100 Starliner, its astronauts will be wearing a brand new spacesuit. The company says its new “Boeing Blue” suits, unveiled this week, have been designed for “functionality, comfort, and protection,” providing greater pressurized mobility that’s 40 percent lighter than previous suits.
They’re certainly different from the bulky white suits we typically see astronauts wear.
“Spacesuits have come in different sizes and shapes and designs, and I think this fits the Boeing model, fits the Boeing vehicle,” said Chris Ferguson, Boeing director of Starliner Crew and Mission Systems.
The suit is said to use more advanced materials, along with new joint patterns, making it incredibly light and flexible. It also features vents to keep astronauts cool, touchscreen-sensitive gloves, and a helmet and visor incorporated into the suit instead of being detachable.
With all of its accessories—the integrated shoes and helmet—the suit weighs around 20 pounds, which NASA says is about ten pounds lighter than the launch-and-entry suits currently worn by space shuttle astronauts.
“The most important part is the suit will keep you alive,” said astronaut Eric Boe. “It is a lot lighter, more form-fitting and it’s simpler, which is always a good thing. Complicated systems have more ways they can break, so simple is better on something like this.”
It will make for some fun cosplaying this Halloween, I can tell you that.
In case of emergency
According to Richard Watson, a subsystem manager for spacesuits for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, astronauts don’t need to wear spacesuits when inside of a spacecraft. Instead, they’re worn “as the emergency backup” should a spacecraft’s support systems fail.
“If all goes perfectly on a mission, then you don’t need a spacesuit,” Watson explained. “It’s like having a fire extinguisher close by in the cockpit. You need it to be effect if it is needed.”
Boeing expects astronauts to wear its new Boeing Blue spacesuit when its Starliner shuttle takes off in 2018.