NASA has selected Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace to develop the next spacesuits for astronauts working outside the International Space Station (ISS), exploring the moon on Artemis missions and preparing for future human missions to Mars.
The agency said Wednesday that the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) contract enables vendors to compete for task orders for spacewalking missions in low-Earth orbit and on the moon through 2034.
The milestone-based awards have a combined maximum potential value of $3.5 billion for all task order awards, including the development and services for the first demonstration outside the space station in low-Earth orbit and for the Artemis III lunar landing.
In addition, each company has invested a significant amount of its own money.
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While NASA has defined the technical and safety standards by which the spacesuits will be built – with the companies agreeing to requirements – it said its commercial partners are encouraged to explore other non-NASA commercial applications for data and technologies they co-develop with NASA.
Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace will be responsible for the design, development, qualification, certification and production of the spacesuits.
The contract, which is managed by NASA’s Johnson Space Center, also provides NASA with an optional mechanism to add additional vendors that were not selected in the original award announcement.
“With these awards, NASA and our partners will develop advanced, reliable spacesuits that allow humans to explore the cosmos unlike ever before,” Johnson Space Center director, Vanessa Wyche, said in a statement. “By partnering with industry, we are efficiently advancing the necessary technology to keep Americans on a path of successful discovery on the International Space Station and as we set our sights on exploring the lunar surface.”
Axiom Space is also based in Houston, Texas, and said it had partnered with multiple industry experts on the contract.
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The company said its xEVAS spacesuits will be designed to accommodate a wide range of crew members and provide increased flexibility and specialized tools.
“Our innovative approach to xEVAS spacesuits provides NASA with an evolvable design that enables cost-efficient development, testing, training, deployment and real-time operations to address a variety of EVA needs and operational scenarios for a range of customers, including NASA,” Axiom Space’s President & CEO Michael Suffredini said. “We are immensely pleased that NASA recognizes the value Axiom Space is providing across a range of human spaceflight activities, from our recent private astronaut mission to the ISS to the design and development of Axiom Station, and now to providing this critical system and associated services for astronauts in LEO and beyond.”
Collins Aerospace – a Raytheon Technologies subsidiary that teamed up with ILC Dover and Oceaneering – said the suits will weigh less than the current generation spacesuits.
“Collins was there when the first man walked on the moon, and we’ll be there when humankind goes back,” Phil Jasper, president of Mission Systems for Collins Aerospace, said in a release.
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Collins Aerospace designed the first spacesuit that allowed astronauts to walk on the moon, as well as the suit NASA astronauts currently use when operating outside the ISS.
Suffrredini and Dan Burbank – senior technical fellow at Collins Aerospace and a former NASA astronaut – said their companies would be ready for demonstration missions to the moon by 2025.