A next-generation spacesuit has been unveiled by NASA for future ISS and Artemis missions.
The suits will be provided by Axiom Space, a private space infrastructure developer, in partnership with Collins Aerospace, an aerospace and defense products supplier.
Collins officials said that they were going for a modern and sportier vibe for the next-gen space garments.
The cosmonaut wear will also be designed to accommodate diverse body types – specifically, women from the 5th percentile for size, and men in the 95th percentile, NASA said.
“When we get to the Moon, we will have our first person of color and our first woman that will be wearers and users of these suits in space,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
In a separate press release in late May, NASA required that the new suits allow humans to “explore the lunar surface and unlock new spacewalk capabilities outside the International Space Station”.
They called this a “critical part of advancing human exploration in space and demonstrating continued American leadership.”
In total, NASA’s two contracts with Axiom and Collins Aerospace could be worth around $3.5billion through 2034.
The spacesuits should be ready for testing in the International Space Station (ISS) within a few years.
By choosing to work with Axiom and Collins, NASA is once again looking to private space companies for task completion.
Axiom Space, for example, has been chosen to build a commercial space station that is expected to one day replace the ISS.
And Elon Musk’s SpaceX has, on a number of occasions, transported NASA crews to the ISS.
“We have a number of customers that already would like to do a spacewalk, and we had planned to build a suit as part of our program,” said Mike Suffredini, Axiom’s president and CEO.
“And so it’s fantastic to have a partnership where we can benefit from the years of experience that NASA has.”
A long road…
NASA has been working on spacesuit technology for the past 15 years, spending approximately $420 million as of 2021 on the project, by an official report.
The report noted that the spacesuits aboard the International Space Station “have exceeded their design life by more than 25 years, necessitating costly maintenance to ensure astronaut safety.”
NASA’s current suits have “been the workhorse for the agency for 40 years” and have been worn on 169 spacewalks, Dina Centella, NASA space station operations integration manager, said.
Centella added that “the spacesuit technology though, of course, at 40 years is now aging, and so we’d like to try new future technologies.”
Artemis Moon mission
The Artemis program was launched by NASA in December 2017 and aims to return humans to the Moon by 2025.
Two of the program’s short-term goals are to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.