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COLLINS AEROSPACE PULLS BACK FROM NASA SPACESUIT CONTRACT

As NASA grapples with more spacesuit problems on the International Space Station, the company it selected to develop replacement suits says it is pulling back from that effort.

In a statement to SpaceNews June 25, a spokesperson for Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of RTX Corp., said the company and NASA had agreed to “descope” work on spacesuit development for the ISS under task orders that are part of a contract awarded two years ago. Reuters first reported that the company was seeking to drop out of the contract.

 

“After a thorough evaluation, Collins Aerospace and NASA mutually agreed to descope Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) task orders. Collins remains committed to supporting NASA and human spaceflight programs,” the company stated.

 

NASA, in a June 26 statement, confirmed that Collins would end work on spacesuit development. “No further work will be performed on the task orders,” the agency said. “This action was agreed upon after Collins recognized its development timeline would not support the space station’s schedule and NASA’s mission objectives.”

 

NASA announced in June 2022 that it selected Collins and Axiom Space for the xEVAS program, which seeks to develop spacesuits commercially that will be offered to NASA as a service. NASA subsequently awarded a task order to Collins to work on a suit for use at the ISS, while Axiom received a task order to develop spacesuits for Artemis lunar missions.

 

Collins had publicly reported good progress on that suit. In February, the company said it completed tests of a prototype of the suit on parabolic aircraft flights that generated 20 seconds of microgravity at a time. “My honest opinion is that it is a far more capable suit,” Danny Olivas, a former NASA astronaut who later became chief test astronaut at Collins, said at the time.

 

The company did not disclose why it sought to descope the work on the project beyond the comments in the NASA statement. Industry sources said they believed that Collins had suffered delays and cost overruns and concluded that it was no longer feasible for the company to continue work on it, particularly given the fixed-price nature of the contract.

 

NASA did not indicate what steps, if any, it would take to find a new suit developer. Besides Axiom and Collins, SpaceX has been independently developing its own spacesuit that will be tested on the Polaris Dawn private astronaut mission flying on a Crew Dragon. That mission is scheduled to launch as soon as mid-July.

 

NASA issued “crossover” task orders to both Axiom and Collins last July, allowing Axiom to start examining how it could adapt its lunar spacesuit for use on the ISS and Collins to adapt its ISS spacesuit for lunar missions. Axiom has been focused on the Artemis suit, including a recent integrated test with NASA and SpaceX to demonstrate how the suits would integrate with the Starship lunar lander and other elements of the Artemis 3 mission.

 

The announcement by Collins comes after NASA experienced two consecutive scrubbed spacewalks from the ISS. NASA called off a June 13 spacewalk after astronaut Matt Dominick reported a “suit discomfort” issue shortly before the spacewalk was scheduled to begin. NASA did not elaborate on the specific problem with the suit.

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