June 2, 2022, Washington: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an independent agency based in the U.S., announced that it has awarded contracts to Collins Aerospace and Axiom Space to deliver novel spacesuits. These new spacesuits will be used for the Artemis moonwalk, as well as the International Space Station spacewalks. Neither the winning companies nor NASA has provided any financial or technical details.
With these contracts, NASA plans to initiate the development of Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services, also known as xEVAS. These contracts would also support the purchasing of spacesuit services, as well as the development of new spacesuits. Both winning companies are aiming to develop the new spacesuits and rent them out to NASA for Artemis missions and space stations. At the same time, they would be able to provide these new suits to other customers present worldwide.
One of the NASA officials mentions, “Our goal is to have these lunar spacesuits ready for the Artemis 3 lunar landing mission. At present, the mission is scheduled for no earlier than 2025. Besides, NASA is likely to conduct an orderly transition from decades-old, existing suits on the ISS to the brand new suits.”
NASA had earlier planned to create new suits internally with the help of an effort called the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU. However, it changed its plan and moved to the accomplishments of crew transportation and commercial cargo. NASA is set to make various capabilities, including xEMU available to the key players for supporting their work.
As per Lara Kearney, manager of the human surface mobility and extravehicular activity program at NASA, “I truly believe that all of that data will be able to help in eliminating the risk and speed up the transition process towards the contractor community. Earlier, we were at a steady place to shift the process owing to the maturation of the xEMU.”
Axiom Space is a privately funded space infrastructure developer based in Texas. The company is currently working with a team of companies, including Paragon Space Development Corporation, KBR, and David Clark Company. It is persistently striving to develop innovative spacesuits to propel commercial space station plans.
Collins Aerospace, on the other hand, is considered to be one of the world’s largest suppliers of aerospace and defense products headquartered in North Carolina. It is working with Oceaneering and ILC Dover. The company is planning to make use of extensive experience that consists of the development of new spacesuits for ISS spacewalks, as well as Apollo moonwalking suits.
Senior technical fellow at Collins named Dan Burbank says, “Our aim is to create a new suit that would be compatible with the entire range of crew members. We are planning to do so by taking the foundation that NASA had laid with the xEMU in collaboration with the industry and transforming the technology.”
President and chief executive of Axiom named Michael Suffredini mentions, “We have a large number of customers who would love to do a spacewalk. It is fascinating to join hands with a company where we can benefit from NASA’s experience.”