Two NASA contractors, Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace, were recently awarded task orders to ramp up operations on designing new spacesuits for spacewalks on the International Space Station (ISS) and activities on the lunar surface during the upcoming Artemis III mission.
Image from the International Space Station of a setting Full Moon as the orbiting science laboratory orbited 262 miles above the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: NASA)
Axiom Space has been tasked for the spacesuit in low Earth orbit for the ISS while Collins Aerospace has been tasked for the spacesuits to be used on the lunar surface, with each task order being worth approximately $5 million.
“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,” Lara Kearney, who is manager of the Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said in the NASA statement. “Using this competitive approach we will enhance redundancy, expand future capabilities, and further invest in the space economy.”
Task orders are generally given as a prelude to much larger contracts, which each contractor must compete for in the end. In the case of these current task orders, both companies were initially given task orders to complete work on spacesuits for the opposite of what they’ve currently been tasked with. For example, Axiom Space was initially tasked with designing a spacesuit for lunar activities while Collins Aerospace was initially tasked with designing a spacesuit for low Earth orbit activities.
As part of their task orders, both companies will provide NASA with detailed information about each design, including how each will function in either microgravity or reduced gravity, radiation concerns, and varying gravitational fields.
The results of these task orders will allow NASA to grow commercial space services for upcoming crewed missions to the Moon, and eventually Mars.
How will these new spacesuits help astronauts on the ISS and the upcoming Artemis III mission? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!
As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!