US aerospace company Boeing has this week shown off a new advanced and lightweight spacesuit design.
The suit, called Boeing Blue, will be used aboard the company’s CST-100 ‘Starliner’ spacecraft which will eventually carry astronauts into Low Earth Orbit and to the International Space Station (ISS).
Boeing has designed the new spacesuits to incorporate a number of new advancements both in materials science and in ergonomics.
The Boeing Blue suit (as well as coming in a blue color) is significantly lighter than traditional designs and allows its wearer increased mobility.
One major design improvement is the use of a soft helmet rather than a hard one, allowing for greater maneuverability and reduced weight.
As well, the Boeing Blue spacesuit makes heavy use of zippers to fasten it together easier than the metallic clasps of early designs.
Temperature regulation, something which has always been a significant issue for these suits, is also claimed to be better, due to improved materials and ventilation.
Finally, the spacesuit’s gloves are coated with a special material which will enable the user to interact with capacitative touchscreens which are common both in the CST-100 Starliner, as well as onboard the ISS.
“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 and a former Nasa astronaut.
When will it fly?
The spacesuit will fly aboard the CST-100 Starliner, which is currently slated for its first manned launch in 2018, as part of Nasa’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.
This program, which has been a major keystone for Nasa over the last few years, also includes SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. Eventually, the US aims to remove its need to be seated on Russian craft to reach space.
Nonetheless, both SpaceX and Boeing are reportedly behind schedule on their respective spacecraft due to technical difficulties, and the current 2018 deadline is expected to slip.