NASA expands Artemis moon spacesuit options for low-Earth orbit

Under the new order, Axiom Space will modify its Artemis III lunar spacesuit design to be used for spacewalks in orbit.

NASA announced Monday it has awarded additional funding to develop spacesuits for low-Earth orbit in addition to moonwalking under the Artemis program.

The U.S. space agency already selected Axiom Space to develop planetary spacesuits for the lunar surface and Collins Aerospace to develop spacesuits for low-Earth orbit. With a new Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services task order, each for $5 million, NASA is asking Axiom to get to work on spacesuits for use on the International Space Station or other low-Earth orbit vehicles and Collins to start work on lunar spacesuits.

Under the new order, Axiom Space will modify its Artemis III lunar spacesuit design to create a new spacesuit for spacewalks in orbit.

NASA plans to return humans to the Moon by 2025. The space agency hasn't had spacesuits capable of walking and doing field work since the Apollo program ended. The current extravehicular mobility units, or EMUs, used on the International Space Station haven't received a major update in decades.

This time, instead of NASA owning the spacesuit design, the private companies will use the government funding to develop the spacesuits that can then be used for other customers. 

In June 2022, NASA announced it selected Collins Aerospace and Axiom Space to create spacesuits for NASA astronauts, Collins to design the new ISS spacesuit and Axiom to develop the Moon spacesuit.

Axiom Space's spacesuit, called the AxEMU, will be worn by the first moonwalkers in more than 50 years during the Artemis III mission. 

Axiom Space revealed prototypes of the AxEMU spacesuit in March. According to Axiom, the spacesuit is designed to fit 90% of people. 

Axiom Space said the spacesuit for the ISS will also be built to accommodate a "wide range of crew members" and provide increased flexibility. 

The entire design includes a life support system, pressurized garments, power avionics and a communication system.

The initial contract has a $3.5 billion maximum value through 2034. According to Axiom Space, the second spacesuit task order has a potential value of $142 million over four years. 

Axiom Space was already working on spacesuits for microgravity to use on its commercial space station.

"We are excited to add our orbital spacesuits as an option for NASA," Axiom Space EVA Program Manager Mark Greeley said. "The team is truly humbled to be a provider of spacesuits for the NASA Artemis missions and now a developer of spacesuits for future ISS missions."