NASA selects Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace for spacesuit contracts – SpaceNews

Updated at 7 p.m. ET with additional contract details.

WASHINGTON — NASA has awarded contracts to Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace to provide spacesuits for International Space Station spacewalks and Artemis moonwalks, though neither the agency nor the winning companies provided any. many technical or financial details.

NASA announced on June 1 that it had selected the two companies for Extravehicular Exploration Services, or xEVAS, contracts to support the development of new spacesuits as well as the purchase of spacesuit services. The companies will own the suits they develop and effectively lease them to NASA for the space station and Artemis missions, while also being able to offer the suits to other customers.

The goal, NASA officials said during an awards briefing, is to have lunar spacesuits ready for the Artemis 3 lunar landing mission, currently scheduled for no earlier than 2025. NASA will perform also an “orderly transition” for decades. suits on the ISS to the new suits around the same time.

NASA had previously planned to develop the suits in-house as part of an effort known as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU, but moved to a service model with competition, building on the achievements commercial freight and crew transportation. NASA is making xEMU data and other capabilities available to companies to support their work.

“I really believe that all of this data helps reduce risk and accelerate the process of transitioning to the entrepreneur community,” said Lara Kearney, Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program Manager at Johnson Space. NASA Center. “We were in a great place to transition just because of how mature xEMU was at the time.”

Axiom, which works with a team of companies including David Clark Company, KBR and Paragon Space Development Corporation, intended to develop spacesuits to support its commercial space station plans.

“We have a number of customers who would already like to do a spacewalk,” explained Michael Suffredini, President and CEO of Axiom, during the briefing. “It’s fantastic to have a partnership where we can benefit from NASA’s years of experience and all the work they’ve done to push the designs forward.”

Collins Aerospace, in conjunction with ILC Dover and Oceaneering, plans to leverage experience that includes the development of the Apollo moon walking suits and the space suits used today on ISS spacewalks. .

“The goal is to take the foundation that NASA has laid with the xEMU in partnership with industry and scale this technology, and create a suit that is compatible with the full spectrum of crewmembers,” said said Dan Burbank, principal technical researcher at Collins.

Burbank, a former astronaut, and Suffredini, a former NASA ISS program manager, underscored their commitment to meeting NASA’s extensive suit requirements, including being compatible with astronauts ranging in size from the 5th percentile female. at the 95th percentile male.

However, the companies provided few technical details about their suit designs, and NASA didn’t even have artwork of the winning designs to show, choosing instead to post an illustration of two astronauts walking on the moon wearing suits that are not necessarily associated with any of the companies. Collins later posted several illustrations of his proposed suit along with images of that design being tested in a lab.

The total value of xEVAS contracts is $3.5 billion through 2034, a figure that assumes all task orders are fulfilled. NASA officials at the briefing declined to split that total between the two companies, saying the information would instead appear in the source selection statement for the procurement, which is expected to be released in late June. In many other commercial markets, NASA has communicated the value of individual awards to companies.

NASA spokeswoman Rebecca Wickes later told SpaceNews that individual contract values ​​would not be published in the source selection statement. Instead, this document will show the percentage difference in prices compared to other bidders,

“We guaranteed them an amount to make sure we could get them started and they had skin in the game, and we’re going to be careful to protect that,” said NASA’s Mark Wiese, who chaired the source selection committee for the xEVAS. competition. He did not disclose these guaranteed amounts.

“NASA will protect exact guaranteed minimum contract amounts and/or individual task order award amounts due to the proprietary nature of commercial solutions while protecting the ongoing competitive nature of this contract,” Wickes said.

NASA said in the statement that each company “invested a significant amount of its own money” in the development, but did not disclose those amounts. Burbank said that since he was focused on the technical side of developing the spacesuits, he didn’t know how much the company had spent. Recent work for the xEVAS contract, he said, “is just the latest iteration of an ongoing investment in in-house R&D.”

Suffredini said the development of Axiom’s suit was fully funded internally. “Now you have to figure out what it is,” he said.

Both companies said they expect spacesuits to be ready for testing on the ISS and for the Artemis 3 mission by the mid-2020s, but another company plans to test its own. space suit in orbit by then. Under the Polaris program announced in February and funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman, SpaceX is developing a version of its Crew Dragon pressurized suit that can be used for spacewalks. This suit will be tested during the Polaris Dawn mission scheduled for later this year.

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