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NASA Earth Space Transportation Technology

Boeing Unveils New NASA Spacesuits For Starliner Austronaut Taxi ( 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The NASA astronauts who fly aboard Boeing's new spaceship will wear sleek, blue suits that are lighter, simpler and more comfortable than the bulky orange gear of the space shuttle era, company representatives said. Unveiled today (Jan. 25), the new "Boeing Blue" spacesuits for the Starliner capsule weigh about 20 lbs. (9 kilograms) each with all of their accessories, compared to 30 lbs. (13.6 kg) for the old space shuttle suits, NASA officials said. Other advances include touch-screen-sensitive gloves, more-flexible material and soft helmets that are incorporated into the suit (rather than the hard, detachable helmets of the shuttle era). The Boeing Blue suit, and the one that SpaceX develops, will help keep astronauts safe in the event of an emergency during trips to and from orbit. The suits are not designed for spacewalks; the large, bulky "extravehicular mobility units" that astronauts use for this latter purpose are already aboard the ISS. "The spacesuit acts as the emergency backup to the spacecraft's redundant life-support systems," Richard Watson, subsystem manager for spacesuits in NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in the same statement. "If everything goes perfectly on a mission, then you don't need a spacesuit. It's like having a fire extinguisher close by in the cockpit. You need it to be effective if it is needed." You can view pictures of the spacesuits here.
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Boeing Unveils New NASA Spacesuits For Starliner Austronaut Taxi

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  • No Fly Zone (Score:5, Funny)

    by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @03:11AM (#53740587)
    Hey, they left the fly of of the men's suits.
    • Hey, they left the fly of of the men's suits.

      You'll note that the subject line calls it an "Astronaut Taxi", but taxis are so last century. The spacecraft will use the Über model and be hailed with an app. So normal taxi regulations will not need to be followed, like the men's suits having a fly.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )

        You'll note that the subject line calls it an "Astronaut Taxi"

        No, the headline refers to an "Austronaut Taxi". Seems NASA will be having explorers drive to Australia in spacesuits.

  • they look more like bio-hazard suits, are these capable of protecting us in a vacuum ?
    • Handling the pressure is relatively easy (a soda can needs to contain 3 atmospheres of pressure).

      The suit is a glorified party balloon with an astronaut inside. Stopping the suit from going pop when it rubs against something inside the capsule is the hard part.

      These suits do not protect against temperature extremes, for that you end up with the inch thick layer of insulation to prevent the astronaut being deep fried while in the sun or snap frozen while in the shade.

      • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @06:34AM (#53740981)

        From documentaries I've seen, it seems that retaining flexibility at the joints when pressurized is one of the trickier challenges. Based on the images, it's hard to determine how they address this, but there's probably more going on than shows beneath the outer layers.

        Also, I'm pretty sure the orange color was a safety feature of previous suits, not a fashion statement. "Boeing Blue?" Marketing is a hell of a reason to pick a suit color.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Nasa used white suits in the Apollo era for two reasons: (1) that was the color of the flame-proof Beta Cloth and (b) it would reflect a lot of light (and thus heat) when exposed to direct sunlight in space. These Apollo suits were actually very complex pressure-holding garments with bellows at the joints and springs and cables etc and the white part of the suit we all saw on TV was just an outer garment that protected the actual functional layers. These suits were designed to not only be used in the spacec

    • are these capable of protecting us in a vacuum ?

      Nope, they only protect astronauts.

      They don't make spacesuits in neckbeard sizes anyways.

    • by Gussington ( 4512999 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @04:55AM (#53740779)

      they look more like bio-hazard suits, are these capable of protecting us in a vacuum ?

      No. Because no-one thought of that until you raised it just now...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Isn't an Austronaut someone visiting Austria? Are they planning on skiing?

  • Austronaut? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pro-feet ( 2668975 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @05:18AM (#53740821)

    Sources could not confirm whether taking the taxi would land you on an Alp meadow, or among the kangaroos.

    • We had someone leave from work, and left his forwarding address as Melbourne, Austria. We often wondered if he knew where he was going.
  • Next time they might want to consider hiring a professional seamstress.

  • by Quarters ( 18322 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @08:33AM (#53741203)

    That guy is totally cosplaying Benny from The LEGO Movie

  • The soft helmets are a cool idea. But when they're unzipped, as you can see in the many photos with the helmets at that pose, there's a lot of stress at the zipper. That's going to be a failure point, just like it is on your luggage. I'm surprised that there isn't a better solution for that.

    That said, it took me all of 10 seconds to see that, and the folks at Boeing aren't idiots, so I hope they have tested the hinging of their zippers!

    • The suits only matter in the very narrow case where :

      a. The cabin loses pressure to a failure
      b. The failure is not so drastic it kills everyone anyway

      The rest of the time, they are just excess bulk. Among other problems, they depend on the pressure manifold of the life support system in the spacecraft to remain pressurized. A micrometeorite impact in the right spot or cryogenic tank explosion will break that and the crew will die regardless.

      So making the suits as light as possible to still hold pressure

  • They have zippers which means the Amish won't be able to use them. Boeing has set themselves up for a huge lawsuit...

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun