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NASA selects Axiom Space to develop next generation ‘moonwalking’ spacesuits

Axiom Space will manufacture “Moonwalking” spacesuits for NASA’s Artemis III mission.

Although the suit’s design is secret, NASA gave Axiom Space a $228.5 million task order to create a spacesuit for the first Artemis landing mission. NASA stated on September 7 that it has chosen Axiom to design, develop, and produce the spacesuits that astronauts would wear on the agency’s first crewed lunar landing in more than 50 years as part of the “moonwalking system” for the Artemis 3 mission.

NASA awarded contracts for xEVAS, or exploration extravehicular activity services, to Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace in June for the development of spacesuits for both Artemis missions and spacewalks on the International Space Station. The businesses would then compete for orders to build and provide spacesuits for a variety of uses.

For this job order, NASA claimed to have received offers from the two businesses, but it made no mention of the criteria it used to choose Axiom. Future task orders that involve the creation of ISS spacesuits and “recurring spacesuit services” for future Artemis flights will be available to both businesses.

Photo depicts Space Suit
A photo illustration of Axiom Space’s space suit Image: Axiom Space

In a statement, Michael Suffredini, president and chief executive of Axiom Space, stated, “Our team at Axiom Space is thrilled to be given this first task order to manufacture the next-generation spacesuit.” Since our astronauts will constantly be using high-performing, durable equipment, our contemporary, evolvable spacesuits will permit quick modifications to integrate better, safer technology throughout time.

However, other than that declaration, the corporation hasn’t disclosed anything more about its lawsuit. Axiom claimed that their suit features “enhanced flexibility and specialized tools” for lunar exploration and is based on a NASA-developed reference design known as xEMU. However, it hasn’t even provided a picture of the whole suit; instead, an artwork that accompanied the news release only included a picture of the helmet and upper torso of the suit, most of which was obscured.

Some in the industry were shocked by NASA’s choice of Axiom since they believed the business was more focused on developing spacesuits to support its upcoming commercial space station. At the June announcement of its xEVAS contract, Collins Aerospace, in contrast, highlighted its work on lunar spacesuit designs while showcasing concepts of the suit. The official opening of Collins’ 11,000 square meters Houston spacesuit development facility took place on August 31.

Axiom claims it is still interested in developing ISS spacesuits. In the release, Suffredini stated, “We are eager to contribute our knowledge to support NASA’s exploration demands, while also serving our commercial clients in low Earth orbit and fulfilling future space station ambitions that allow a commercial space economy.

The Artemis and ISS versions of both businesses’ xEVAS suits have a “quite high degree of similarity,” according to a source selection statement NASA issued after the announcement of the xEVAS contracts to Axiom and Collins. However, it said that in order for both businesses to finish their spacesuits on time, they “rely on quick acceleration of technological maturity and resolution of major technical trade studies.”

NASA Space Suit
NASA

Although no pricing information was given, it was said that Axiom had a cheaper price than Collins. While Collins was 2% below it, the Axiom concept was 23% less expensive than NASA’s independent government cost estimate. The amount of the cost estimate was kept a secret by NASA.

On the xEVAS suit development project, Axiom is collaborating with a number of different businesses, including KBR, Air-Lock, Arrow Science and Technology, David Clark Company, Paragon Space Development Corporation, Sophic Synergistics, and A-P-T Research. Despite the fact that these businesses had a history of working on spacesuits, life support systems, and associated projects, the NASA supplier selection statement cautioned that none of them had produced a pressure garment system, a component of the suit for which KBR would be responsible.

Source: SpaceNews

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Written by Alex Bruno

Freelance space writer Alex Bruno specializes in covering China's quickly expanding space industry. In 2021, he started writing for SpaceXMania. He also contributes to publications including SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. When Alex was a small child, he first experienced the space bug after seeing Voyager photographs of alien planets in our solar system. When not in space, Alex likes to go trail jogging in the Finnish countryside.

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