NASA has awarded mission orders to two companies already working on spacesuits for the International Space Station and Artemis missions to develop alternate versions of their suits.
NASA announced July 10 that it has issued $5 million worth of orders to Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace to begin design work on alternate versions of their suits already in development. The Axiom mission command begins work on a version of its suit for the International Space Station, while Collins will begin designing a suit for walking on the moon.
NASA awarded contracts to the two companies in June 2022 through the Extravehicular Exploration Services program to support the development of new Artemis and ISS spacesuits. NASA would then acquire the services of the spacesuits rather than the suits themselves, effectively leasing them rather than owning them.
However, the contracts required companies to compete for specific mission orders to develop the space suit. NASA has awarded a single mission order to Axiom Space in September 2022 to develop the $228.5 million Artemis spacesuit. Another awarded to Collins Aerospace in December 2022 for an ISS spacesuit, worth $97.2 million.
Companies will use the new “cross” task commands to adapt the suits they’re developing for one application over the other. After initial design work is completed, the agency will then consider exercising options for further development of the suit, NASA said in a statement.
Doing so saves redundancy, the agency said, by acquiring a spare suit for both the International Space Station and Artemis missions. “Using this competitive approach, we will enhance redundancy, expand future capabilities, and invest more in the space economy,” said Lara Kearney, director of the Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program at Johnson Space Center.
Awards may also align closely with corporate plans. Axiom, which won the original mission order for lunar spacesuits, is developing a commercial space station that may require spacewalks either for maintenance or to service customer requirements. Collins, who won the ISS spacesuit mission order last December, had previously confirmed her work on lunar spacesuit designs.
“We are excited to add our orbital spacesuits as an option for NASA,” Mark Greeley, EVA program manager at Axiom Space, said in a company statement. The company said work on a low-Earth orbit version of its spacesuits is already underway.
“Our next-generation spacesuit design is approximately 90 percent compatible with the Moon mission,” Dave Romero, director of EVA and Human Space Navigation Systems at Collins, said in a company statement. “The award of this formal contract will support ongoing efforts to modify the next-generation spacesuit, making it suitable for missions on the moon.”
Axiom said the full value of this new mission order, if all options are exercised, is $142 million over four years. Collins did not disclose the full value of his mission order.
“Web maven. Infuriatingly humble beer geek. Bacon fanatic. Typical creator. Music expert.”