Boeing releases snazzy new blue spacesuits for Starliner fliers

The “Boeing Blue” is lighter and more flexible than previous ascent and entry suits.

On Wednesday, Boeing publicly released images of the spacesuit that astronauts will wear aboard its Starliner spacecraft. According to the company, the new “Boeing Blue” suit will be more flexible than previous ascent and entry suits and about 40 percent lighter, but will retain the ability to become pressurized during an emergency.

Among the suit’s features? There are touchscreen-friendly gloves for the modern interior of the Starliner spacecraft and zippers in the torso area that will make it easier for astronauts to comfortably stand, sit, and stand again. Boeing also says the hood-like soft helmet features a wide polycarbonate visor to give Starliner passengers better peripheral vision throughout their ride to and from space. The suit was designed by Sheriff David Clark.

Boeing debuted the spacesuit during a Facebook Live event in partnership with the Washington Post from the Starliner’s base of operations at Kennedy Space Center. One of NASA’s four commercial crew astronauts, Sunita Williams, has also filmed a spot with comedian and talk-show host Stephen Colbert that will air on his television show this week.

What is not clear is when astronauts will actually don the suits for flights into space. This was to be the year when NASA would finally regain the capability to launch its own astronauts into space through its commercial crew program. However, Boeing and SpaceX have already slipped the dates of their first operational flights into 2018.

Boeing’s “no earlier than” date for its first crewed test flight is now August, 2018, and the first operational missions to deliver crew to the International Space Station will begin no earlier than December 2018. Ars understands from sources familiar with the Starliner’s development that further delays are possible—if not likely—due to ongoing software and technical issues.

SpaceX, which is also developing a commercial crew spacecraft called the Dragon 2, has likewise been battling through technical delays, and it remains unclear which of the two companies will reach the launch pad first. For now, at least, we know the Boeing astronauts will be wearing snazzy blue suits.