NASA has called on industry partners to assist the agency in crafting the acquisition strategy for the production of lunar spacesuits. The spacesuits will be used for NASA Artemis missions to Moon and adapted for the first crewed mission to Mars.
The request for information on “Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVA) Production and Services” was published on October 4. The request seeks industry feedback to assist NASA with refining the acquisition process for the production of a next-generation spacesuit, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU).
Unlike many other elements of the Artemis program, the xEMU has been under development at NASA for several years. In fact, the spacesuits that are expected to be used on the first two Artemis missions will be built and certified by the agency itself. However, following the second Artemis mission, NASA is planning to transfer the responsibility for production, assembly, and testing of the suits to a contracted partner.
The xEMU spacesuit builds on lessons learned throughout NASA history including those learnt from the suits utilised on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo program. The new suits incorporate several improvements including a redesigned lower torso which allows for increased mobility when walking and kneeling. Additionally, a new modular life support system will allow for components to be easily swapped out and upgraded according to a mission’s requirements.
“You won’t see the bunny hopping and falls like those seen in the Apollo videos, because we’ve added bearings and new soft elements to help the suit move smoothly with the wearer,” said Marshall Smith, director of the Human Lunar Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With the improvements to the suits for Artemis missions, astronauts can now open up new possibilities for science and exploration at the Moon.”
In addition to calling on industry partners to produce the xEMU spacesuits, the xEVA Production and Services request for information has also called for feedback on the production of toolkits. These kits will be required to support everything from science operations on the lunar surface to the construction of the lunar Gateway space station.