HOUSTON – NASA officials on Wednesday announced the two companies that will develop the agency’s next generation of spacesuits.
Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace will develop and provide the suits for low Earth orbit missions outside the International Space Station, and for the Artemis Moon missions.
A news conference took place NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The broadcast included center director Vanessa Wyche and the center’s International Space Station Program operations integration manager Dina Contella, as well as Lara Kearny and Lindsay Aitchson, manager and program executive of the Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility programs at Johnson and NASA headquarters respectively.
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Axiom says the contract is important because they are already building a commercial space station and will need the new suits anyway.
NASA said the companies must demonstrate the suits first in a “relative environment,” either on the space station or in a simulated environment. NASA hopes to have these suits ready in the next few years for demonstration, possibly by 2025.
NASA in May called off all non-emergency spacewalks after water was found in the helmet of European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer following a space station excursion in March. Though it had been nearly ten years since water in an astronaut’s helmet notably put a person in danger — the last instance being when Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano found his eyes, mouth, ears and nose filling with water during a spacewalk in 2013 — NASA will still arrange for Maurer’s helmet to go under the knife back on Earth while the agency decides on new spacesuits altogether.
ISS program operations integration manager Dina Contella called the current spacesuits the workhorse of the space program for 40 years. The ISS will be the test bed for the new suits.
Those suits are expected to outfit future astronauts on the planned Artemis moon missions, as well as for general use on the space station. In a statement, NASA suggested the new spacesuits will be used either literally or constructively for missions to Mars as well.