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New spacesuit is built for moonwalking

In the Industry | March 27, 2023 | By:

This new Artemis III spacesuit prototype, the AxEMU, will have additional outer layers that will be the familiar all-white color when the suit is worn by NASA astronauts on the Moon’s surface. Photo: Axiom Space.

As NASA selected Axiom Space to deliver a moonwalking system for the Artemis III mission, the company participated in activities when the first prototype was revealed March 15, 2023, during an event at Space Center Houston in Texas. The mission will land Americans on the surface of the Moon for the first time in over 50 years. 

This award—the first one under a competitive spacesuits contract—is for a task order to develop a next generation Artemis spacesuit and supporting systems, and to demonstrate their use on the lunar surface during Artemis III. Called the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU), the spacesuit builds on NASA’s spacesuit prototype developments and incorporates the latest technology, enhanced mobility and added protection from hazards on the Moon.

NASA chose to use a commercial services contract for development of the new spacesuit, whereby Axiom is encouraged to pursue other commercial customers for their moonwalking services. This mutually beneficial approach helps bolster an emerging commercial market and grants NASA the right to use the data and technologies developed under the contract for future exploration efforts.

The AxEMU features the range of motion and flexibility needed to explore more of the lunar landscape, and the suit will fit a broad range of crew members. Axiom Space will continue to apply modern technological innovations in life-support systems, pressure garments and avionics as development continues. The final suits will be similar to the prototype recently unveiled, but there will be an additional outer layer of Mylar and Kevlar that will be white. 

The 21st-century spacesuit is crafted using advanced technology, such as laser cutters that precisely slice various fabrics and 3-D printers that create components, resulting in cost and time savings. However, certain components are still assembled using sewing machines. Several different fabrics are used in the construction of the suit. 

Lara Kearney, manager of NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility program, says, “What we learn on Artemis III and future missions on and around the Moon will pave the way for missions to Mars. Spacesuits enable us to literally take that next step.”

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