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ILC Dover to make Boeing Starliner spacesuits

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Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew ship approaches the International Space Station on May 20 on the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission before automatically docking to the Harmony module’s forward port. | PHOTO COUTRESY OF BOB HINES/NASA

NEWARK – ILC Dover, the specialized engineering, development and manufacturing company, recently announced that it has been selected as a provider of spacesuits for Boeing’s next-generation Starliner spacecraft that will ferry crews to the International Space Station.

The May 26 announcement of the newly landed contract comes just after Boeing’s successful unmanned pilot mission by the Starliner.

ILC Dover, headquartered in Newark with a long history in Frederica, is best known to Delawareans for manufacturing most spacesuits used by NASA since the Apollo missions. Today, the private company has diversified its target markets with a larger focus on biopharmaceutical equipment.

ILC Dover was one of two companies selected to be providers of Boeing’s Ascent/Entry Suit (AES) for the company’s Commercial Crew Program. It has developed a bespoke AES spacesuit for CST-100 Starliner crews.

“We are proud to utilize our expertise to create a new AES for the Starliner spacecraft,” said Patty Stoll, president of space systems and engineered solutions at ILC Dover, in a statement announcing the contract. “Having worked with the Boeing team on the Starliner’s landing airbags, which provide a safe, cushioned arrival to Earth from space, we understood the importance of delivering another quality product for this program.”

The Starliner capsule can hold a crew of up to seven people and is designed to be able to remain docked to ISS for up to seven months with reusability of up to 10 missions. After several rounds of competitive development contracts within the Commercial Crew Program starting in 2010, NASA selected the Boeing Starliner, along with SpaceX Crew Dragon, for the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract round.

The Boeing spacesuit is based on ILC Dover’s commercial Launch, Entry, and Abort suit, SOLTM. ILC Dover worked with Boeing to tailor it for the Starliner spacecraft to provide protection for astronauts during the most critical phases of spaceflight, including launch, docking, re-entry and landing. With over 50 years of spacesuit experience, the AES suit was designed to provide maximum mobility to operate, enter and exit the spacecraft, as well as provide protection for astronauts in case of an emergency.

“Our success is measured by those we’ve helped return to Earth safely for over 50 years of space travel and we will continue to provide spacesuits and soft solutions that will keep astronauts safe in the harsh environment of space,” Stoll added.

Working with ILC Dover’s in-house fashion designer, the cover layer of the spacesuit was designed with a unique look for Starliner crew members.

A replica of the Starliner AES will be on display on Florida’s Space Coast at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s new attraction called “Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex.” ILC Dover and Boeing worked with Adam Savage, the TV personality best known for Discovery’s “Mythbusters” who is a longtime special effects designer and fabricator, to create the replica.

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