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NASA awards contracts for next-generation space suits

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NASA has selected two US companies to build state-of-the-art space suits for future lunar missions.

The costumes will also be used for space walks outside the International Space Station (ISS), as well as for preparatory work for the first manned missions to Mars.

The contracts, announced by NASA on Wednesday, June 1, went to Axiom Space in Texas and Collins Aerospace in North Carolina. The awards are the latest in a growing list of collaborations between NASA and private companies, as the agency looks more and more at the commercial sector to support its space program.

“With these awards, NASA and our partners will develop advanced and reliable space suits that allow people to explore the cosmos like never before,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “By partnering with industry, we are effectively advancing the technology needed to keep Americans on the path to successful discovery on the ISS and as we focus on exploring the lunar surface.”

Both Axiom and Collins have been selected for Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) contracts with a combined potential value of $ 3.5 billion, although each partner has also invested “a significant amount of their own money” in projects, according to NASA.

The contracts run until 2034, the first tasks that will offer a wide range of capabilities for NASA’s needs for spacewalk outside the low-orbit ISS of Earth and for the long-awaited Artemis III mission, which will strive to put the first woman and first person of color. on the lunar surface before the end of this decade.

“NASA experts have defined the technical and safety standards by which the space suits will be built, and the selected companies have agreed to meet these key requirements of the agency,” the agency said in a post on its website. “Business partners will be responsible for the design, development, qualification, certification and production of space suits and support equipment to enable the space station and Artemis missions.”

So far, companies have released few design details, but it is clear that the lunar suits will need to be more mobile and, due to harsh lunar conditions and hazards, more robust than those currently used by astronauts for ISS spacewalks.

Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini said his team was “very pleased that NASA recognizes the value that Axiom Space offers in a range of human spaceflight activities, from our recent private astronaut mission to ISS until the design and development of the Axiom station and now until the provision of this critical system and associated services for astronauts in low Earth orbit and beyond.

Collins Aerospace will work with Oceaneering and ILC Dover, which designed the space suit used by astronauts for lunar landings five decades ago, as well as today’s spacewalk off the ISS.

“Astronauts returning to the moon and venturing beyond need a space suit as modern as their new missions,” said Dan Burbank, a senior technical colleague at Collins Aerospace and a former NASA astronaut, after hearing about the contract. “The next-generation space suit is lighter, more modular, fits better and adapts easily, which means that wherever space travel takes us, our crew will be prepared.”

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