NASA spacesuits are 40 years old. Now you’re ordering spacesuits as a service

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Artist’s illustration of two proper crew members working on the Moon. The person in the foreground lifts a rock for examination while the others depict the location of the group in the background.

NASA

On Wednesday, NASA said it did Choice of two companiesand Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace, to build next-generation spacesuits for the agency.

The new spacesuits will lead NASA astronauts into a new era of exploration: They will be the last suits worn by astronauts to walk outside the International Space Station, which will retire in 2030. The suits will help NASA astronauts walk on the Moon for the first time in half a century. They will help NASA prepare for eventual human missions to Mars.

“History is going to be made with these suits,” Vanessa Wiccy, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, told reporters on Wednesday.

Both Axiom and Collins Aerospace said they expect to be able to display the suits around 2025. While the suits are already being developed, there are no images available of them yet.

NASA’s new partnerships with Axiom and Collins Aerospace also mark a milestone in the agency’s efforts to advance The booming commercial space economy. The two companies will in fact own the spacesuits and provide them with other spacewalk systems as a service.

The selected companies were selected from the out-of-vehicle exploration services (xEVAS) Contract solicitation. Under the contract, Axiom and Collins will compete to provide spacewalking needs for various mission orders and missions through 2034. The maximum potential contract value is $3.5 billion for all mission order dockings.

Meanwhile, NASA is encouraging its private partners to explore other non-NASA commercial applications of the data and technologies they are co-developing with the agency. NASA will reserve the right to use that data and technology within the agency and in future exploration program purchases.

NASA assumes that creating these types of incentives for the private sector will encourage innovation and ongoing competition — in theory lowering costs and creating significant redundancy in missions.

“We’ve talked for many years about public and private partnerships,” said Michael Suffredini, CEO of Axiom Space, who served as NASA’s ISS program manager from 2005 to 2015. sides. “

Axiom was formed in order to build a commercial space station to replace the International Space Station once it is retired. The company recently acquired fFirst ever fully private crew to the International Space Station.

“Axiom Space needs a spacesuit,” Suffredini explained. “We have a number of clients who really want to take a tour of space, and we planned to build a spacesuit as part of our program.

“It’s great to have a partnership where we can leverage NASA’s years of experience, and all the work they’ve done to develop the design into what it is today…so we can use the suit to meet our needs.”

Dina Contella, director of International Space Station Program Operations Integration at Johnson Space Center, said the current NASA suit “has been the agency’s backbone for 40 years.” Of the 250 spaceflights that NASA and its partners have taken aboard the space station, 169 are in the current spacesuit.

“Spacesuit technology, of course, at 40, is getting older,” she said. “We’d like to try new future technologies, and we’d like to do it in an affordable way.”

NASA is still responsible for defining the technical and safety standards by which the spacesuits will be built. The agency has also given certain requirements to companies seeking to build spacesuits. For example, it should fit a wide range of human bodies, from the fifth percentile of females to the 95th percentile of males.

Axiom and Collins Aerospace attempt to design suits that are modular and require as few parts as possible. However, they must also interact with all kinds of vehicles and equipment that will be used in space, and they must provide as much mobility as possible.

“We often call a spacesuit the smallest spacecraft in the world…but it shouldn’t feel like a spacecraft,” said Dan Burbank, a senior technical fellow at Collins Aerospace. “We want to create an immersive environment that gives the crew the greatest mobility, complementing rather than limiting the crew’s capacity.”

Ultimately, he said, they wanted to build a suit that “looks like a solid set of extreme sports outerwear.”