Image courtesy of Boeing
Boeing has unveiled a new space suite for its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, scheduled for its first launch in 2018.
The suite features a far more lightweight design than seen on previous suits worn by NASA astronauts, with advancements needed in the next generation of Space Craft.
Boeing is one of several civilian manufacturers that will usher in a new era in space flight from 2018 with manned flights to low earth orbit and the International Space Station. Boeing and SpaceX have manned space flight tests scheduled for 2018, with Boeing flying two tests in June and August respectively, and SpaceX in May 2018. SpaceX had originally scheduled a manned mission as early as November 2017, but due to its launch failure in late 2016 the company has stated that it needs more time to establish the exact cause behind the failure before it can move on to the manned missions.
Boeing’s new Space Suite features a more lightweight design, with the helmet and visor built into the suit instead of being detachable. In addition they have used far more lightweight materials than older generation suits, and the suite also features gloves with advanced materials that allow astronauts to operate touch screen displays.
Former NASA and Space Shuttle astronaut Chris Ferguson helped design the suit, which according to him features many advancements that can help make the trip to space a lot more comfortable, and add a greater degree of ease of use.
“Astronauts formerly had these heavy, bulky suits with thick neck rings, and we learned throughout the years that maybe we didn’t need that,” said Ferguson.
The suite weighs about 12lbs, versus the 30lbs seen on previous suits.
“We needed a suit that was air-tight, could withstand the pressure differential, could get the crew down from an extreme situation where there was a fire or a cabin leak.”
The advancements made with the suite also mean that it’s much cooler temperature wise, and doesn’t need external cooling to provide comfort for the astronauts.
Other new features include a zip for locking the helmet instead of an o-ring and forward relocated umbilical attachment points for ease of access.