Collins Aerospace will manufacture suits for the International Space Station

Collins Aerospace will build spacesuits for the International Space Station, which means two Houston-linked organizations could protect astronauts as they float above Earth or walk on the Moon.

NASA announced Thursday that Charlotte, North Carolina-based Collins Aerospace, which recently built a new campus at Spaceport Houston, will develop and test spacesuits that could replace the technology 40-year-old astronauts currently wear. at the exit of the station.

The agency previously selected Houston-based Axiom Space, which is also building a campus at Spaceport Houston, to design suits for astronauts walking on the moon on NASA’s Artemis III mission. These two initial technology demonstrations are part of a contract announced in June identifying the two companies that would compete for spacesuit missions.

“They will still be competing for long-term service to the Moon and the International Space Station,” said Chris Hansen, NASA’s deputy program director overseeing spacesuits and rovers at Johnson Space Center. “It’s more about creating competition and having multiple companies working on a very complicated problem for us.”

Collins’ spacesuit has over 18,000 parts. Its interior volume is the size of a small refrigerator, and it will provide astronauts with oxygen, carbon dioxide removal, power, ventilation, temperature control, and communications. The suit is lighter and smaller to improve efficiency, range of motion and comfort for astronauts. It is designed to fit nearly all body types and can be modified as missions change.

Collins Aerospace, a Raytheon Technologies company, has a long tradition of designing outerwear for astronauts. He previously helped build spacesuits for Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and International Space Station astronauts.

NASA owned the spacesuits for these programs. This time, NASA will lease suits owned by Collins Aerospace and Axiom Space. Under the public-private partnership, NASA provided a reference spacesuit to guide the companies’ designs and is providing seed funding.

Axiom Space is getting $228.5 million to prove its suits on the Artemis III mission that is expected to return astronauts to the Moon in 2025 (the company must first test them on Earth in a space-like environment, like a vacuum chamber).

Collins Aerospace is getting $97.2 million to test its spacesuits in a simulated space environment by January 2024, then NASA could provide additional funding to test Collins’ suit outside the space station by April 2026.

Ultimately, NASA wants to be one of many spacewalk customers.

“One of our goals here was to create an economy,” Hansen said. “So it’s really exciting for us to put this infrastructure in place.”

Space suits are very complex. They are essentially human-shaped spaceships that must protect astronauts in the vacuum of space.

“We stand ready to continue to keep astronauts safe, connected and prepared – whatever the mission,” said Dave McClure, Collins Aerospace vice president and general manager, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Space Solutions, in a press release.

Collins expected to do much of its spacesuit assembly, maintenance and testing at its new Houston Spaceport location. Axiom Space will also build its spacesuits locally.

“That’s a big plus, I think, for the Houston area economically,” Hansen said. “Having them located here at Johnson Space Center is really helpful for us because that’s where our astronauts are and that’s where we do a lot of the training.”

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