Axiom Space is preparing new spacesuits for Artemis lunar expeditions

by alex

The company promises astronauts the conquest of the Moon with comfort and safety

Axiom Space is preparing to conduct critical design work on the Artemis program's next generation of lunar spacesuits. This event could take place as early as June of this year. However, this news, against the backdrop of NASA's postponement of sending astronauts to the Moon, raises questions. Currently, landing is planned no earlier than 2026.

The new Artemis spacesuits will give astronauts more flexibility than those used in the Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s. Developing safe clothing for work in space and on the lunar surface has been a source of concern due to scheduling difficulties. NASA's internal audit office expressed its concerns about the issue back in 2021, warning that delays could hamper the 2024 Moon landing goal. As a result, NASA decided to delay the landing until 2025 to ensure the safety of the mission.

Although progress has been made with two private providers — by SpaceX and their Starship spacecraft, technical problems with the spacesuits led to another delay of the Artemis 3 mission. According to officials, this decision was made in the interests of safety.

After the Apollo program, NASA had a long history of developing lunar space suits. A report from the Office of Internal Compliance shows that from 2007 to 2021, the agency initiated at least three internal programs to develop spacesuits. The latest program, Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), associated with the Artemis program, has encountered difficulties due to lack of funding, the COVID-19 pandemic and technical problems.

Subsequently, NASA decided to attract private developers. In June 2022, agreements were concluded with Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace. The companies have begun competing for large contracts to carry out the work, the total value of which will be up to $3.5 billion. The first order was received by Axiom Space in September 2022 for $228.5 million.

Axiom Space presented its prototype AxEMU (Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit) spacesuit in March 2023. However, the prototype's appearance was hidden to hide important elements from the camera. Development of AxEMU continues with the participation of companies such as KBR, Air-Lock, Arrow Science and Technology, David Clark Company, Paragon Space Development Corporation, Sophic Synergistics and A-P-T Research.

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Axiom Space готовит новые скафандры для лунных экспедиций Artemis

A distinctive feature of the Artemis spacesuits from the Apollo spacesuits created by ILC Industries for work in the equatorial zone of the Moon is their ability to function in the colder and more distant polar region of the Moon. This region may contain water ice, making it potentially important for a sustainable presence on the Moon. Water can be used in the production of rocket fuel and in life support systems.

The AxEMU suits will be tested in vacuum chambers over the next two years. These cameras are capable of simulating the temperature and lack of atmosphere of outer space. There are also plans to conduct demonstration tests in the pool where astronauts train before spacewalks.

The NASA spacesuits in use today are known as the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), developed in the 1970s for the shuttle program and still used on the ISS for spacewalks. However, the non-lunar EMU design requires a new set of lunar landing suits.

The EMU suit was designed to accommodate the male anatomy at a time when women were not accepted as astronauts. Today, astronaut recruitment practices have changed, and NASA continues to strive for equality. However, replacing existing spacesuits is a complex and costly process. Only a few female astronauts have been able to use EMU suits, and only four spacewalks have been carried out exclusively by women.

In a statement, Axiom Space officials highlight plans to create a suit that will fit a wide range of crew members. The company is also collaborating with various experts, including engineers and astronauts, to achieve its goal. The AxEMU suit will have a number of additional advantages, including the ability to work with specialized Axiom Space instruments on the lunar surface and the ability to remain in the shadowed regions of the Moon for two hours or longer.

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