When the Boeing CST-100 Starliner takes to space in 2018, its passengers and crew will be a little more stylish and a little cooler than their NASA predecessors. The company has unveiled its Boeing Blue spacesuit, which will be worn by astronauts flying to and from the International Space Station and features numerous innovations to improve both the comfort and protection of modern space travelers.
The Boeing Blue isn't intended for anything as ambitious as going on spacewalks or strutting around on the surface of Mars. Instead, it's an emergency suit similar to the bulky orange suits worn by the Shuttle astronauts to protect them in the event of a sudden cabin depressurization. However, Boeing is keen to point out that its new suit is not only a bit more stylish, but is very much a state-of-the art suit for the 21st century.
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According to Boeing, the Blue is 40 percent the weight of current NASA suits, coming it at only 12 lb (5.4 kg) as opposed to 30 lb (13.6 kg). Part of these savings is from eliminating the hard helmet and neck ring in favor of a smaller soft version secured by a zipper and sporting a wider polycarbonate visor for better visibility when pressurized. In addition, there is an integrated communications system in the helmet to keep the astronauts in touch with mission control and one another.
Under the blue outer covering is a new layered fabric that includes a more breathable design for the suit and boots to keep astronauts cool without the need for external cooling systems under normal conditions. There are also zips in the torso to allow the wearer to move from sitting to standing comfortably.
Since this is the digital age, the lighter gloves of the Boeing Blue also include touchscreen-friendly surfaces to allow the astronauts to use their devices and touch displays in space.
"Spacesuits have come in different sizes and shapes and designs, and I think this fits the Boeing model, fits the Boeing vehicle," says Chris Ferguson, Boeing director of Starliner Crew and Mission Systems and a former NASA astronaut.
The video below gives a tour of Boeing Blue.