In 2022, NASA engaged Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace in the development of next-generation spacesuits, intended to replace the dated equipment currently employed by astronauts. The space agency has now boosted the developers’ existing contracts, allotting each an additional $5 million for the conception and creation of novel spacesuit designs not stipulated in their original contracts.
Axiom Space was tasked by NASA to fabricate a spacesuit designed for usage in Low Earth Orbit, particularly for spacewalks outside the International Space Station. Initially, Axiom’s contract involved crafting a spacewalking system to be donned by the Artemis III astronauts during their lunar landing. The company released a prototype of the original order in March, featuring a suit equipped with flexible joints for easy movement and a helmet complete with a light and an HD camera.
On the other hand, Collins Aerospace was commissioned to design a spacesuit specifically for lunar surface applications. Prior to this, the company was engaged to create a spacewalking suit to be used outside the ISS. Essentially, each firm has received a fresh contract that parallels the other’s prior assignment. Lara Kearney, the manager of the Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, stated:
“These task orders equip NASA with additional options should more capabilities become essential or beneficial to NASA’s missions. As the agency spearheads deep space exploration and the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit, this competitive approach will enhance system redundancy, broaden future abilities, and encourage further investment in the space economy.”
Redundancy is crucial in the realm of space tech development. In this context, developing spacesuits for identical purposes by two distinct firms could provide astronauts with alternative options if one should fail. Notably, these new task orders pertain to the companies’ initial “design modification work”. Essentially, the companies are repurposing their original suits for a new use and NASA wants to review these designs before committing to their continuous development. Axiom informed SpaceNews that if NASA opts to proceed with the development of these new spacesuits, the complete order would cost the agency $142 million spread over four years.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Next-generation spacesuits
What companies are developing NASA’s next-gen spacesuits?
Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace have been contracted by NASA to develop the next generation of spacesuits.
How much additional funding has NASA provided to these companies?
NASA has expanded their existing contracts, providing an additional $5 million to each company for the design and development of new spacesuits.
What were the original contracts for Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace?
Axiom Space’s original contract was to develop a spacewalking system for use in the Artemis III lunar landing. Meanwhile, Collins Aerospace was originally contracted to create a spacewalking suit for use outside the International Space Station (ISS).
What is the importance of redundancy in space tech development?
Redundancy is crucial in space tech as it ensures there are alternative options available if one system fails. For instance, having two different companies develop spacesuits for identical purposes provides backup options for astronauts.
What will the full order for the new spacesuits cost NASA if they decide to proceed?
If NASA decides to continue with the development of the new spacesuits, the full order is expected to cost the agency $142 million over a four-year period.