Today, Boeing unveiled the new blue launch-and-entry suit to be worn by crew of the CST-100 Starliner. It’s quite an impressive step forward from the ACES suits worn on Shuttle, designed to be much more practical, which should improve compliance. (One problem identified on the Shuttle program was that crews almost never were fully suited up until half way through the reentry, because a) it took too long and b) the gloves made it difficult to operate equipment.) They’re also much lighter and apparently vastly more comfortable, not requiring the liquid-cooled undergarment to keep the crewman from sweating away too much of their body weight while waiting to fly. Here, it’s modeled by Boeing’s director of Starliner Crew and Mission Systems, Chris Ferguson, who is a former Shuttle astronaut himself:
Now, this suit isn’t intended for spacewalking. Like the ACES suits and the Russian Sokol suits, it’s only intended to protect the crewmembers from an accidental depressurization of the capsule. It also lacks a rigid helmet and a parachute pack, two features required on the Shuttle suits, but which should not be relevant in a capsule, where egress isn’t really feasible but the capsule itself is far more survivable than the Shuttle ever was in the event of a serious mishap.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get really excited about the prospect of American spacecraft flying into orbit once more. 😉 It’s been a long time coming.