Collins Aerospace and Axiom Space were awarded orders
NASA is going to spend $3.5 billion through 2034 to upgrade its space suits.
Last year, the agency awarded Collins Aerospace and Axiom Space orders, buying services that provide astronauts with next-generation spacesuits and EVA systems to work outside the International Space Station, explore the lunar surface on Artemis missions, and prepare for crewed missions to Mars.
The companies were selected as a result of a contract request for extravehicular activity research services (xEVAS). While the partners will own the new suits, the contract gives NASA the ability to add vendors not previously selected. Selected vendors can compete for mission order missions “that will provide the full complement of NASA EVA capabilities” during the operational period through 2034, with an aggregate maximum potential value of $3.5 billion for all mission order awards.
The suits will be designed and manufactured using engineering and safety standards provided by NASA.
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The order value for Collins Aerospace is $97.2 million and for Axiom Space the base cost is $228.5 million.
Collins Aerospace will complete a critical design review and demonstrate the use of the suit in a simulated space environment by January 2024. NASA will have the option to extend the demonstration contract outside the space station by April 2026.
Axiom Space has been selected to deliver the rover system for the Artemis III mission.
Both suppliers will continue to compete for future orders.
With these awards, NASA said it was one step closer to replacing the current design, which has been used by astronauts for decades on space shuttle and space station flights.
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The new suit will support the continued maintenance and operation of the station.
“We look forward to receiving another much needed service under our contract,” said Lara Kearney, EVA and Human Surface Mobility Program Manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “By working with industry, NASA can continue its more than 22-year legacy of maintaining a presence in low Earth orbit.”
Notably, a 2021 report from NASA’s Office of the Inspector General showed that since 2007, NASA has spent about $420.1 million developing the space suit and that the agency plans to invest about $625.2 million more.
He also highlighted issues with the timeline, predicting delays with space suits and the moon landing.
Kearney told CNBC this week that the agency is starting to see some performance degradation, with the components that need to be replaced. The new suits will be designed so that previous water-related failures cannot occur.
NASA also had trouble finding the right sizes for the astronaut corps. In 2019, what was supposed to be the first all-female spacewalk was adjusted due to the presence of a space suit on the space station.
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