Boeing is closer than ever to getting ready for the ISS crew transportation services for the account of NASA, and in this context they have unveiled their own futuristic space suits called the “Boeing Blue”. The suits are way more comfortable for the astronauts since they are lighter and more versatile than the usual bulky orange ones that they have been using for the past years in the ISS. More specifically, the Boeing Blue weigh only 9 kilograms compared to 13.6 kilos of the current NASA suit, feature a soft helmet that is incorporated with a zip onto the suit instead of the hard detachable helmet that are currently in use, have shoes that look more like sneakers rather than blocks of titanium, and finally boast touch-sensitive gloves that make it a lot easier for astronauts to handle something if needed. However, the “Blue” isn’t suitable for spacewalks, so the usual bulky mobility units will stay on board of the ISS for now.
You may think that suit weight on the weightlessness of space doesn’t matter, but in this case, it does as it goes hand in hand with volume which also greatly affects freedom of movement. Moreover, when launching something into space, every kilogram counts and costs thousands of additional dollars. That said, the benefits of having a lighter and more versatile space suit are multiple, and while this is strictly technical speaking, we really can’t leave the aesthetics part aside. Space suits are something of a space travel icon, a symbol if you like that has stayed almost exactly the same for the past decades. Space themed movies have always gone ahead and presented space suits that look awesome, but the reality was always more grounding and back to what is actually feasible and safe for the people. In that sense, it is great to see that step being done by Boeing finally.
Now, the suit is only a suit and won’t get you anywhere if the spacecraft isn’t ready. Boeing is feverishly working on its CST-100 Starliner that together with Space-X’s Dragon II will finally end NASA’s dependence on the space agencies of other nations for the crew and materials transportation to the ISS. The latest update by Boeing on that part of the CCDev program is that the first uncrewed test mission to the ISS will take place on June 2018, while the first crewed flight is currently scheduled for August of the same year. Ok, there is still plenty of time left for testing and optimizations, but having the suits ready already is nice right?