After completing initial design work, the agency will then consider exercising options for further suit development.
The latest Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services task orders, each with a value of $5m, are intended to have Axiom Space begin work on a spacesuit for use in low Earth orbit, and Collins Aerospace to begin work on a spacesuit for use on the lunar surface. Encouraging innovation in the suits and services available from both companies helps NASA further its missions for the benefit of humanity as part of its Moon to Mars exploration approach and obtain potential options should any development issues arise.
Lara Kearney, Manager of the Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program at NASAs Johnson Space Center in Houston, said: “These task orders position NASA for success should additional capabilities become necessary or advantageous to NASAs missions as the agency paves the way for deep space exploration and commercialization of low Earth orbit. Using this competitive approach we will enhance redundancy, expand future capabilities, and further invest in the space economy.”
Axiom Space was previously awarded an initial task order to develop a spacewalking system for a demonstration in partial gravity on the lunar surface during Artemis III and will now begin early assessments for extending that suit for use outside the International Space Station. Likewise, Collins Aerospace was previously awarded an initial task order to develop a spacewalking system for a demonstration in microgravity outside the space station and will now begin early assessments for extending that suit for use on the lunar surface.
Both vendors assessments will provide NASA insight and redundancy for the use of their suit systems despite the differences between low Earth orbit and the lunar surface, including different gravitational fields, natural space environments such as radiation, and mission tasks like floating in microgravity or walking in partial gravity.
The providers will begin their design modification work through an initial milestone set by the awardee in their respective proposals for the task orders initial content. Following the completion of this initial step, NASA may exercise task order options to continue development.
The contract enables selected providers to compete for task orders for missions that will provide a full suite of capabilities for NASAs spacewalking needs during the period of performance through 2034. The first task orders awarded were for the development and services for the first demonstration outside the space station in low Earth orbit and for the Artemis III lunar landing.