We all know that Russia and the U.S. still have some disagreements with each other, but NASA doesn’t seem to have many choices other than using Russia’s Soyuz rockets to launch astronauts into orbit. This is the reason why back in 2012, NASA commissioned two aerospace giants, namely Boeing and SpaceX, to develop space taxis that can ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo vessel has been taking shipments to the ISS since 2012, but it’s still working on its Dragon V2 to send humans back into orbit. Boeing, on the other hand, is still working on its CS-100 Starliner and it won’t be ready until 2018.
The new, blue-colored spacesuit veers away from the bulky gear we all are familiar with. But even with its revamped design, the Starliner spacesuit meets NASA’s safety and functionality standards and adds more by introducing innovative features.
Traditional spacesuits weigh approximately 15kg which limits the astronaut’s movement here on Earth. Using lighter and flexible materials, combined with altered joint patterns, Boeing was able to bring down the suit’s weight to only 5.4kg – that’s only as heavy as your winter outfit. Airtight zippers are placed in strategic locations all over the suit to allow more freedom of movement and enable astronauts to easily jump in and out of it without the help of extra hands.
The helmet and visor are also integrated into the suit which is altogether different from the previous suit’s heavy, detachable headpiece. Despite being smaller in size, the helmet already has a built-in mic and headset installed which is necessary for communication.
The thick, heavy gloves of the traditional spacesuit have also been converted to thinner, touchscreen-sensitive materials. Even the shoes fit like regular cross trainers.
Cooling vents have been installed in the suit, allowing water vapor to pass out of the spacesuit and away from it while keeping the air inside intact. This makes the suit feel cooler while retaining its ability to be immediately pressurized, keeping the wearer safe and comfortable at the same time.
The suit has been through several space flight simulations to test its flexibility, durability, and efficiency. However, it’s yet to be tested in actual space flight this 2018.
SpaceX is rumored to also release their own design of a spacesuit, but for now, Starliner’s suit is already a huge improvement from the bulky, greyish-white suit we saw in the Apollo 13 movie.