Skip to main content

2 Houston Companies Land Major NASA Contract to Design Next-Gen Spacesuits

Published Jun 02, 2022 by Brina Morales

Next-Generation Spacesuit (Courtesy: Collins Aerospace)

Next-Generation Spacesuit (Courtesy: Collins Aerospace)

Next-generation Spacesuit (Courtesy:Collins Aerospace)

NASA has selected two aerospace companies with a Houston presence to move forward in developing next-generation spacesuits and spacewalk systems. The announcement is the latest in a series of high-profile developments that are reigniting Houston's aerospace industry.

Axiom Space, which recently broke ground on its headquarters at Houston Spaceport, and Collins Aerospace, which is building a manufacturing facility and startup incubator at Houston Spaceport, will compete for task orders under the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) contract. The contract has a maximum potential value of $3.5 billion through 2034.  

“With these awards, NASA and our partners will develop advanced, reliable spacesuits that allow humans to explore the cosmos unlike ever before,” said Vanessa Wyche, NASA’s Johnson Space Center Director. “By partnering with industry, we are efficiently advancing the necessary technology to keep Americans on a path of successful discovery on the International Space Station and as we set our sights on exploring the lunar surface.”

The spacesuits will be for the International Space Station crew, astronauts on Artemis missions and future human missions to Mars. According to a company press release, Collins Aerospace says its new suits, designed by astronauts, are lighter and more adaptable, allowing for increased mission times.

“Collins was there when the first man walked on the moon, and we’ll be there when humankind goes back,” said Phil Jasper, president of Mission Systems for Collins Aerospace.

Axiom Space will design its spacesuits to provide increased flexibility and specialized tools for exploration and scientific needs, according to the company.

“We are immensely pleased that NASA recognizes the value Axiom Space is providing across a range of human spaceflight activities, from our recent private astronaut mission to the ISS to the design and development of Axiom Station, and now to providing this critical system and associated services for astronauts in LEO [low Earth Orbit] and beyond,” said Michael Suffredini, Axiom Space’s President and CEO. 

Houston Spaceport is located 20 miles south of Downtown Houston at Ellington Airport and describes itself as the world’s first truly urban commercial spaceport. The Houston Airport System is building the spaceport in phases collaborating with private sector tenants. Houston is home to 500 companies and institutions involved in aircraft or space vehicle manufacturing, research and technology, making the city an ideal site for aerospace and aviation companies to build or expand operations. 

Learn more about Houston's aerospace and aviation industry.

Related News

Aerospace & Aviation

Major Local Academic Institutions, Companies Growing Houston’s Advanced Materials Sector

5/26/22
While Houston’s wide-ranging scientific innovations date back to mid-20th century, a discovery in 1985 by two local professors laid the foundation for research and innovation in materials science, electronics and nanotechnology. Dr. Richard Smalley and Dr. Robert Curl of Rice University, and Dr. Harold Kroto of Sussex University won a Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering a new carbon molecule, buckminsterfullerene. Company Innovating Nanotechnology to Focus on Green-Scaling Houston-based DexMat Inc. is one of various local companies that has emerged from the city’s scientific advancements in the nanotechnology space, positioning it as one of Houston’s top manufacturers of products deriving from carbon nanotubes (CNT). From tape to insulated yarn, DexMat’s patented material “Galvorn CNT fibers” has demonstrated breakthrough advancements in materials science. The Galvorn CNT fibers can be used to create various conductive products and have been recognized by NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Science Foundation, among other elite entities in the scientific community.  The CEO of DexMat, Dmitri Tsentalovich, states that although the product is successful, it has not yet reached the maximum performance of its molecular build-up. ”On average, we’ve been improving the electrical and mechanical properties by about 20-25% a year for the last 20 years,” Tsentalovich said. The cadence of product improvements allows the company to continue growing and innovating new products.  Tsentalovich said he sees Houston’s position as a hydrogen hub as a major opportunity to scale CNT products without generating greenhouse emissions. “You can make them [CNT] with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time producing hydrogen.” He also noted the city’s existing infrastructure of energy focused companies creates opportunities for possible adaptations of natural gas emissions to synthesize CNT. Staggering Textile Applications While the products’ conductivity and strength allow for implementation in large technologies, its malleable properties have opened the door for next-gen projects and research.  Sofia Izaguirre, a materials engineer at DexMat, said their product’s flexible characteristics have led to opportunities in the wearable technology space. “The yarn can be sown into a garment, and essentially turn a shirt into a smart shirt [by] connecting it to a hardware,” she said.  Izaguirre said they have partnered with e-textile expert company Hexoskin to explore replacing their current electrodes with Galvorn CNT yarn electrodes. The proposal would improve the products by using more conductible electrodes, according to Izaguirre. She said the CNT electrodes would increase the conductivity with skin by eliminating the need for ECG/ultrasound gel used to decrease skin resistance. The materials engineer emphasized the Galvorn CNT material would improve the contact with skin simply by sowing the fabric with it. “You can sow a shirt with CNT yarn and [have it] act as an electrode (conductor) as it makes contact with the skin,” Izaguirre said.  The Welch Institute for Next-Gen Material Manufacturing In September 2020, Rice University announced a $100 million dollar gift from the Robert A. Welch Foundation to establish The Welch Institute. “The goal of The Welch Institute is to attract top researchers from around the world to collaborate with Rice University's internationally renowned faculty and scientific resources, making the Institute a center of intellectual discovery, innovation and transformation in advanced material,” according to a press release.  Estimated to open in 2023, the new institute will join University of Houston’s Center for Advanced Materials as two of the city’s academic spaces dedicated to materials research & development. With many companies eyeing Houston’s scientific industries, it’s clear a growth for nanotechnology will continue incrementing, following the city’s culture of discovery and innovation.  Learn more about Houston’s energy industries and why it’s set to become the Energy Transition Capital of the World. 
Read More
Aerospace & Aviation

International Business Month: Intl. Air Travel Through Houston on the Rebound

5/13/22
Houston is the only Texas city with two international airports and one of only a handful of such cities across the country. That’s meant big business for George Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports through the years, with the two facilities and their carriers serving well over 60 international destinations in 36 countries around the world.  But the pandemic ground much of that to a halt. In January 2020, the Houston Airport System logged more than 33,000 international passengers a day. That dropped to fewer than 100 passengers a day in March and didn’t really begin to recover until late in 2020.  As a major gateway to Mexico, Houston’s airports have benefited from that country’s more lax COVID protocols that have prompted U.S. passengers to flock south of the border. As of March of this year, traffic from Houston to Mexico was up nearly 120% compared with pre-pandemic levels. However, broader long-haul traffic from Houston to destinations in Europe, East Asia and South America remains about 40% below pre-pandemic levels.  In 2021, the Houston Airport System handled 7.3 million international passengers, a major improvement from the 3.9 million who traveled through the local airports in 2020. But that was still well below the levels experienced pre-pandemic when the system handled 12 million international passengers in 2019. By March of this year, international passenger traffic was about 27% below the monthly totals in 2019 and officials expect the gap will continue to narrow in the months ahead barring a major resurgence in infections and a resumption of tighter protocols.  Anticipating continued growth, capital projects at the airports are in the works to improve the passenger experience and traffic efficiency. At Bush Intercontinental the IAH Terminal Redevelopment Program is reimagining parts of the facility, including a Terminal D renovation, construction of a new pier and a new processing facility for international departures with automated features. Parts of the redevelopment will be complete in 2023 with the remainder slated for 2024.  Over at Hobby Airport, the Houston City Council recently approved $20 million in funding that will help the airport’s largest carrier, Southwest Airlines, expand its footprint. Southwest will foot most of the $250 million cost to construct seven new gates on Hobby’s west concourse. Southwest will operate six of the gates and Hobby will be able to designate which airlines can use the seventh gate. The ambitious plan is the largest at Hobby since the completion of the international terminal in 2015. The new project is in early stages and officials say there’s no clear timeline yet for completion. Get more details on international business through Houston at a our State of Houston’s Global Economy event on May 20. You’ll also receive the Global Houston publication, which includes an analysis of international trends affecting this region and our top trade partners around the world. 
Read More

Related Events