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NASA Reveals Who'll Make Its Next-Gen Moon and ISS Spacesuits

Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace will develop spacesuits for the Artemis moon missions and for spacewalks.

A NASA illustration shows astronauts on the moon.

It's time for NASA's astronauts to get some new space duds before they rocket off to set foot on the moon with the Artemis program. On Wednesday, NASA revealed it has selected Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace to develop new spacesuits for moonwalks and for spacewalks from the International Space Station. 

NASA made the announcement during a live event from Johnson Space Center in Houston. Just as NASA has looked to private companies to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS, it also wants to hire out the development of spacesuits. The maximum potential value of the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services, or xEVAS, contract is $3.5 billion.

The decades-old spacesuit designs currently in use on the International Space Station are well past their prime. NASA had been working on new suits and showed off a patriotic prototype of a moonwalking outfit -- called the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU -- back in 2019. A 2021 report from the NASA Office of Inspector General called out delays in the development of the suits that would make a proposed 2024 human moon landing unfeasible. NASA will now hand off the responsibility for developing new suits to Axiom and Collins. 

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, offered last year to develop spacesuits for moon landings, but his company was not named by NASA as a provider.  

Collins Aerospace and partner ILC Dover showed off a next-gen spacesuit prototype in mid-2019. Collins' expertise in spacesuit development will be leverage to build new suits for NASA missions.

Collins Aerospace

Axiom Space worked with SpaceX to launch the first fully private crew to the ISS earlier this year. The company is developing a commercial space station project and will need spacesuits for its own low-Earth orbit plans. "Partners will own the spacesuits and are encouraged to explore other non-NASA commercial applications for data and technologies they co-develop with NASA," said NASA in a statement.

The suits will need to be flexible and able to accommodate different sizes of astronauts. Collins, along with partner ILC Dover, had already been working on a next-gen suit prior to the NASA contract. ILC Dover is known for supplying spacesuits for the Apollo program and the ISS.

Axiom and Collins intend to demonstrate their new suits by 2025. 

NASA is working toward getting humans back to the moon with an eye on a sustained presence there as a stepping stone to eventually sending astronauts to Mars. The Artemis program is meant to put the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface. Said NASA Johnson director Vanessa Wyche, "History will be made with these suits when we get to the moon."