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NASA expands task orders for spacewalking, moonwalking suits
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NASA expands task orders for spacewalking, moonwalking suits
by Sheri Walsh
Washington DC (UPI) Jul 10, 2023

NASA is expanding its options for spacewalking suits and moonwalking suits with task orders from Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace.

The Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services task orders will include a spacesuit for use in low-Earth orbit from Axiom Space and a spacesuit for Artemis missions on the lunar surface from Collins Aerospace, with each valued at $5 million.

These additional capabilities are geared to bolster NASA's commercial space industry, which is part of the agency's long-term goals for exploration in low-Earth orbit and deep space, including the moon and Mars.

"These task orders position NASA for success should additional capabilities become necessary or advantageous to NASA's missions as the agency paves the way for deep space exploration and commercialization of low Earth orbit," said Lara Kearney, manager of the Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"Using this competitive approach we will enhance redundancy, expand future capabilities and further invest in the space economy."

Axiom Space is currently under contract to develop a spacewalking system in partial gravity on the moon during Artemis III and will begin assessing that same suit for use outside of the International Space Station.

"We are excited to add our orbital spacesuits as an option for NASA," Mark Greeley, Axiom Space EVA program manager, said in a statement Monday. "The team is truly humbled to be a provider of spacesuits for the NASA Artemis missions and now a developer of spacesuits for future ISS missions."

Collins Aerospace has been developing a spacewalking system for microgravity outside the space station and will begin assessments for that suit on the moon.

"Our next-generation spacesuit design is nearly 90% compatible with a lunar mission," Dave Romero, director of EVA & Human Surface Mobility Systems for Collins Aerospace, said in a statement Monday. "This formal contract award will support continued efforts to modify our next-generation spacesuit, making it suitable to tasks on the moon."

NASA has said it is looking for redundancy in the suit systems despite differences between low-Earth orbit and the lunar surface, which include "different gravitational fields, natural space environments such as radiation, and mission tasks like floating in microgravity or walking in partial gravity."

NASA, which is looking to fulfill its spacewalking needs through 2034, will decide whether to pursue the full extent of the task order options with the provider, completing all safety verifications and performing a flight demonstration.

Each provider, according to the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services contract, will own their spacesuits and will be allowed to pursue other commercial customers.

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