The Artemis III mission will take humanity back to the moon and will have two astronauts conducting up to four spacewalks on its surface. Now, NASA has picked the company that will be building the spacesuits Artemis astronauts will wear when they leave their spacecraft and explore the lunar landscape. The agency has announced that Axiom Space will develop the mission's moonwalking system and has been awarded an order with a value of at least $228.5 million.
Axiom is one of the two companies that NASA named as its official Artemis spacesuit partners back in June, with the other one being Collins Aerospace. For this particular order, the agency said it reviewed proposals from the two vendors and had decided on Axiom to design, develop, certify and ultimately produce Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) spacesuits and equipment for Artemis III.
Axiom's xEVAS will build off on NASA's Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) spacesuits that the agency designed for Artemis missions. They will accommodate a wide range of crew members, the company said in its announcement, and will be built with increased flexibility and specialized tools for exploration.
That Axiom is building the spacesuit to accommodate a wider range of bodies is of particular importance as we prepare to explore the moon and other deep space locations. If you'll recall, a planned all-female spacewalk back in 2019 was cancelled due to the lack of properly fitting gear, and it put a spotlight on spacesuit design and the availability of various sizes. Artemis III is intended to put the first woman on the lunar surface, and Axiom has confirmed in its announcement that it will be making an xEVAS spacesuit for that female astronaut.
Michael Suffredini, Axiom Space President & CEO, said in a statement:
"Our modernized, evolvable spacesuits will enable rapid upgrades to implement better, safer technologies over time, ensuring our astronauts are always equipped with high performing, robust equipment. We look forward to providing our space pioneers with advanced tools needed to further humanity's permanent expansion off the planet."
This particular order is for the Artemis III landing only. The vendors are expected to compete for future task orders that include spacesuits for recurring lunar landings, as well as the development of spacesuits for use outside the ISS in low-Earth orbit.