Here are the new spacesuits astronauts will wear for tonight’s Starliner launch

Two NASA astronauts are making final preparations directly ahead of the first crewed launch of the new Boeing Starliner capsule, which will launch from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida later tonight, Monday May 6. Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will be aboard for liftoff at 10:34 p.m. ET (here’s how to watch), when an Alliance Atlas V rocket launchesthe Starliner for its test flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

The weather looks food for the launch tonight, with 95% chance of favorable conditions. And Wilmore and Williams have been suiting up in the new Starliner suits specially designed for this mission.

A graphic displaying Boeing’s spacesuit for Starliner astronauts.
A graphic displaying Boeing’s spacesuit for Starliner astronauts. NASA/Boeing

The blue suits, different from the white suits worn on SpaceX Dragon missions, have been designed to be lighter and more flexible than previous spacesuits, according to NASA, with zippers at the joints to allow for motion and an attached helmet and visor. They are also lighter than previous spacesuits so less cumbersome to move in.

The integrated visor is a favorite new feature of the suit, Starliner spacesuit lead Tori Wills Pedrotty said when showing the suit to media last month. The broad dome means a very wide field of view, with the ability for astronauts to comfortably turn their heads to get a better view around them. But the biggest selling point of the suit is its weight, which is just around 20 pounds including shoes and accessories. Compared to the older spacesuits worn by Space Shuttle astronauts, the new suits are almost 10 pounds lighter.

NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams perform checks of their Boeing spacesuits in the crew suit-up room inside the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, May 6, 2024.
NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams perform checks of their Boeing spacesuits in the crew suit-up room inside the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, May 6, 2024. NASA

Williams has expressed her approval of the new look, saying in an earlier press conference: “I really like these suits. They’re really nice, slick, comfortable suits — easy to get in and easy to get out of, allow a lot of mobility,” she said. She also described how the helmet flips over from behind and then closes with a zipper, similar to pressure zippers used in previous spacesuits, but unusual in that the helmet and suit are one piece.

“I think they probably put that helmet the way they did because I keep having this reoccurring dream that it’s launch time and I can’t find my helmet,” Wilmore joked.

Williams and Wilmore have now suited up in the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center and have headed out to the pad, ready to enter the capsule. But before they left, they had one more important task to perform: the ritual card game played before any astronaut launch from Kennedy. “The point of the game is that the commander must use up all his or her bad luck before the launch, so the crew can only leave for the pad when the commander loses,” NASA explains.

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