Artemis Moon Spacesuits Getting Ready for Testing Ahead of September 2026 Crewed Lunar Landing

As NASA plans to return humans to the lunar surface in September 2026, the agency is also working on advanced technologies to ensure that it succeeds in that mission. The American Space Agency has already contracted Axiom Space to make futuristic spacesuits for its Artemis space program. The U.S.-based company is currently making great progress to ensure that these Artemis Moon Spacesuits are ready on time.

On Monday (Jan. 22), a top representative from Axiom Space announced that the garments may progress to a critical design review as soon as possible. They said that the review may likely occur in June this year. Axiom Space made the announcement just two weeks after NASA announced its plan to delay the Artemis 2 mission to 2025 and Artemis 3 to 2026. Unlike Apollo Moon Spacesuits that made the crew hop around the lunar surface in the 1960s and 1970s,

Axiom Space will make the Artemis moon spacesuits to give astronauts greater flexibility and comfort as they conduct EVA around the lunar south pole in September 2026. After NASA began with its plan to return humans to the moon in the 21st century, the agency has shown great concern about the spacesuits its lunar explorers would wear to explore the moon.

In fact, the agency added an extra year to its earlier 2025 moon-landing goal to enable both SpaceX and Axiom Space to meet up with the technical delays of Starship lander and EVA spacesuit designs respectively. In the 21st century, NASA has created at least, three internal programs between 2007, and 2021, according to the OIG report.

The most recent of these programs is for Artemis moonwalkers. It anticipated developing the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU). However, the progress was delayed by funding, COVID-19, and technical difficulties, the report suggested.

Why NASA is Collaborating with Axiom Space for Artemis Moon Spacesuits

After the three internal programs ended in 2021, NASA began to seek partnerships with private companies to help in the development of Artemis moon Spacesuits. The agency later partnered with teams led by Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace in June 2022. These companies started competing for the high set of task orders valued at about $3.5 billion for a period of performance through 2034 per company materials.

The first lucrative task order for the Artemis 3 moon landing mission was given to Axiom Space in September 2022. That first task order has a base value of $228.5 million. In March 2023, Axiom Space showed its prototype Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU), during a livestream.

However, that version of the spacesuit was concealed by a colorful layer in order to hide proprietary elements from the display. Axiom Space is collaborating with the best professionals to work on AxEMU. These experts include KBR, Air-Lock, Arrow Science and Technology, David Clark Company, Paragon Space Development Corporation, Sophic Synergistics and A-P-T Research, Axiom Space officials said at the time.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the ILC Industries designed the Apollo Spacesuits for astronauts to walk around the lunar equator. However, Axiom Space is designing Artemis Moon spacesuits to be used in the colder and more remote region of the lunar south pole. Note that NASA anticipates landing humans in the south pole region as water ice may be present on this region of the moon.

Since water is the primary resource to sustain the human presence on the moon, NASA hopes that water from the lunar south pole will enable it to establish a permanent human presence on the moon. With the water obtained from this region, the agency can use it to fuel rockets and also life support systems for the crew.

How NASA and Axiom Space Plan to Test the AxEMU

Image Credit: NASA

Once the AxEMU is ready, it will be tested in vacuum chambers for the next two years. The essence of testing it in vacuum chambers is to simulate a temperature and moon-like environment where the spacesuits will be used. The Artemis moon Spacesuits will also be tested in underwater conditions at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.

This is where astronauts often train for spacewalks. The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), designed in the 1970s were NASA’s currently active EVA spacesuits used on the International Space Station for spacewalks. However, the EMU design is not meant for walking on lunar gravity.

These EMUs were designed specifically for males with larger bodies as no other genders were recruited in the astronaut’s corps during the era. But as astronauts NASA began to hire females as well, and the agency continued to anticipate improving its standards as spacesuits cost a fortune to be replaced.

However, Axiom officials released a statement revealing how the company is working on using its own spacesuits to “accommodate a wider range of crew members.” The U.S.-based company is consulting with different engineers and astronauts to meet its goal.

The AxEMU will offer great benefits to astronauts including the ability to stand in permanently shadowed regions of the moon for more than two hours, and the ability to work with specialized Axiom Space tools on the moon.

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