NASA Is Having a Spacesuit Crisis

Spacesuit Setback

Earlier this week, NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson discovered to her horror that water was squirting from her spacesuit 31 minutes into her and fellow astronaut Mike Barratt's spacewalk outside of the International Space Station.

Unsurprisingly, the space agency was forced to cut their journey short, with crews on board the orbital outpost investigating the leak ever since.

It's the latest in a long list of signs that NASA is sorely in need of a spacesuit refresh — the current design dates back to the agency's Space Shuttle Program in the 1980s.

But the agency's efforts to develop a new one with the help of the commercial space industry are also on thin ice.

As SpaceNews reports, contractor Collins Aerospace said it had agreed with NASA to essentially abandon its work on an ISS spacesuit replacement — which doesn't bode well, given the agency's ongoing problems with its existing equipment.

Intriguingly, NASA didn't give a reason as to why exactly Collins chose to abandon its NASA contract, suggesting there may be more to the story.

Crossover Event

Collins and Axiom Space were selected by NASA in June 2022 for its xEVAS commercially developed spacesuits program to cook up a pair of suits for the ISS and one for NASA's Artemis missions to the Moon, respectively.

While Collins announced in February that it had successfully tested a prototype suit, the company is officially pulling out.

"No further work will be performed on the task orders," NASA said in a statement to SpaceNews. "This action was agreed upon after Collins recognized its development timeline would not support the space station’s schedule and NASA’s mission objectives."

We can only guess as to why Collins decided to pull out. According to the report, industry insiders believe the development of the suit had already suffered delays and budget overruns, with Collins no longer being able to cover the costs for the fixed-price contract.

Fortunately, Axiom could soon come to the rescue, having signed a "crossover" task order last summer permitting it to figure out how to adapt its Moon suit for use on the ISS. SpaceX is also working on its own EVA suit, which will be tested for the first time during an upcoming mission.

Nonetheless, the news doesn't inspire confidence. This month alone, NASA had to scrub two spacewalks, including Dyson's harrowing experience this week.

The agency also implemented a seven-month hiatus on spacewalks in 2022 after an astronaut noticed excess water accumulating inside his helmet — a "close call" that could've led to him drowning while floating through the emptiness of space.

More on spacesuits: NASA Investigating Why Water Spewed From Spacesuit During Spacealk