NASA recently chose Axiom Space to design the spacesuits used by moonwalking astronauts during Artemis III missions. There were two competitive spacesuit contracts available, one with Axiom and the other with Collins Aerospace. According to a press release from NASA in June, the companies were developing spacesuits that would increase mobility in low-Earth orbit and on the Moon.
At a Glance
- NASA worked with Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace on competitive contracts for new Artemis Mission spacesuits
- The Space Administration decided to work exclusively with Axiom on the new suits
- NASA previously unveiled its own spacesuit designs in 2019, but those seem to be behind schedule
Space Administration Aims to Create New Moonwalking Spacesuits for Artemis Astronauts
“With these awards, NASA and our partners will develop advanced, reliable spacesuits that allow humans to explore the cosmos unlike ever before,” said the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Vanessa Wyche, at the time.
Now, NASA has chosen to work exclusively with Axiom to create the next generation of spacesuits. Axiom will develop a moonwalking spacesuit and relevant systems and demonstrate their uses on the Moon’s surface. To do this, the suits will be tested in a “spacelike environment” before the Artemis III mission, slated for 2025. According to a NASA press release from September 7, the organization will be spending at least $228.5 million on the Axiom contract.
NASA has over 50 years of spacesuit experience. Because of this, they laid out the base for the Artemis suits, which includes technical and safety elements. Axiom will take over the “design, development, qualification, certification, and production of its spacesuits and support equipment,” says NASA. Additionally, the organization is eyeing two more launch dates for Artemis I in September. Hopefully, everything falls into place on the schedule.
NASA Previously Unveiled Spacesuits for Artemis Mission in 2019 Before Considering Other Contracts
In 2019, NASA Administrator at the time Jim Bridenstine announced the xEMU, which stands for Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit. The unveiling included the xEMU as well as a new flight suit for transit to the Moon. According to a report from Space.com in 2021, the xEMU was behind on production. This is possibly why NASA chose to work with Axiom Space on the suits instead.
The goal of a new spacesuit is to accommodate different-sized astronauts. In the past, space missions were largely made up of men. So, the spacesuits were typically made to fit them. Female astronauts and smaller-sized people had trouble with the suits because they were not made to fit them. These new suits aim to fit a larger range of body sizes, including smaller-statured female astronauts.
Additionally, the new suits will have more joint mobility, better oxygen storage, and make astronauts more nimble on the Moon’s surface in general. The other suit that was unveiled in 2019 was an updated version of the orange flight suit NASA employed from 1981 to 2011. This version was called the Orion Crew Survival System and was updated for the spacecraft’s microgravity environment.
Apparently, these suits have been put on the back burner as NASA goes with Axiom Space’s contract. It is currently unknown why the organization decided to move on from its own design and work with an outside contractor instead. It’s possible that Axiom will build upon these previous designs for Artemis III.