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Frontiers Special Report 2017 January

Cover photo: Chris Ferguson, two-time space shuttle commander, dons a helmet with a wide visor that provides greater peripheral vision. Illustration: An artist’s concept depicts how an iterative approach to a design study takes shape. Starliner team unveils a sleek new spacesuit for commercial crew missions BY DAN RALEY rom Project Mercury to the space shuttle program, astronauts riding on American F vehicles pulled on spacesuits that were silver, white or orange, and enormous. People practically waddled when they wore them. Yet when space travelers are outfitted for the first crew flight aboard the Boeing-built CST-100 Starliner in 2018, they will go dressed as no other orbiting humans have before. Blue and sleek. While losing none of the safety features required for spaceflight, the recently unveiled Boeing Ascent/Entry Suit, or AES, is more elegant and flexible than previous suits, said Chris Ferguson, Boeing director of Starliner Crew and Mission Systems and a former space shuttle commander. “It’s more aesthetically appealing and it’s not as bulky,” Ferguson said. “It is comfortable to wear.” Blue, of course, is Boeing’s dominant color and one that matches several elements of the Starliner’s cabin interior. Astronauts will wear the dark-colored, form-fitting suit during launch, ascent and re-entry. They will sport either a Boeing logo or a NASA insignia patch—depending on whom they represent—on the right shoulder, an American flag on the left, and Starliner and name patches across the front of the suit. Permanent logos are sewn into the fabric while mission-specific emblems attach by Velcro. The leaner look is a byproduct of a Starliner spacesuit that is 20 pounds (9 kilograms)—and 12 pounds (5 kilograms) without accessories—which is significantly lighter than previous pressure suits, said Alex Diaz, Boeing systems engineer and Associate Technical Fellow. Teams were tasked to make the FRONTIERS 2017 | 3


Frontiers Special Report 2017 January
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