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we finally know who will build the new space suits

NASA will finally be able to breathe and concentrate on the rest of the preparations for Artemis 3; Axiom Aerospace and Collins Aerospace will handle the next generation xEMU suits.

After a long suspense, NASA has finally unveiled the identity of the two subcontractors who will have the difficult task of producing the new generation of xEMU space suits; Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace will develop this material which will be used for the Artemis 3 mission, which will bring American astronauts back to the Moon.

These new suits are very important elements of this future mission; the current suits, whose design dates back several decades, are simply no longer adapted to the constraints of modern aerospace. Too cumbersome, not very mobile and no longer quite reliable, they would not allow the astronauts of Artemis 3 to maximize the potential of the mission.

Moreover, they are also beginning to pose a risk; NASA finds it increasingly difficult to trust this old stuff. At this very moment, they are also shelved pending the end of an investigation into water leaks that occurred during spacewalks which could have had dramatic consequences.

A long Way of the Cross

For many years, NASA therefore tried to develop its own new generation of suits before realizing it; after 15 years of hard work, the agency was more or less treading water while throwing a hell of a lot of money into this technological abyss.

© NASA

So she ended up abdicating. In October 2011, it therefore integrated the design of the xEMUs into its project to open up to the private sector. The agency had launched a major call for tenders to find the future partners who will take charge of the design of this engineering gem (see our article).

With Collins and Axiom, NASA has found a very interesting pair of collaborators. The first is a company that has indisputable legitimacy in space suits; she is one of those who participated in the design of the suits currently used by NASA. This choice therefore seems quite obvious.

The second contract was awarded to Axiom. It’s a younger company, but one that is establishing itself as one of the big names in American aerospace. She never designed a jumpsuit; on the other hand, it specializes in space stations. This means that she still has some expertise in the matter, since ultimately the suits can be seen as flexible space stations on a human scale.

Heading for Artemis 3

These two contracts will bring in a total of $3.5 billion to those involved. And even if the bill is salty, for NASA, it’s a real breath of fresh air; the least we can say is that it was high time to get the project started. Because Artemis 3 is fast approaching. And this crucial mission of the roadmap remains entirely dependent on the progress of this program; if it falls further behind, the agency will be forced to postpone Arrtemis 3 again.

Fortunately, there is still some time left; NASA currently estimates that the Artemis 3 mission should take place in 2025 or 2026 after several consecutive postponements. And this deadline could be further extended. But that won’t be too much. Because even in an industry as demanding as space, developing these suits is one of the toughest engineering challenges there is.

Indeed, it is a question of building a small space vehicle that is at the same time resistant, perfectly waterproof and flexible. It must also be able to carry a large number of instruments and survival systems while leaving enough room for maneuver for the astronauts. And before being able to embark them in space, NASA will also have to take the time to test them conscientiously to avoid a resounding fiasco.

For space lovers, this is therefore one of the most interesting projects to follow at the moment. Its progress will directly condition the future of Artemis 3. We therefore give you an appointment by 2025 to see if the agency will have finally succeeded in meeting its new deadline; or whether these combinations will continue to cause problems.

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