You might have thought due to SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk publicly offering support to NASA’s new spacesuit program, his company would at least submit a proposal. It turns out no, which begs the question if SpaceX’s EVA capable suit is as far along as some people may think.
NASA left high and dry by SpaceX in xEVAS contract proposals
Last year NASA Office of Inspector General issued an audit of the agency’s xEMU program, which wasn’t good. This suit was intended to replace the current generation of EVA suits used on the International Space Station and for lunar exploration with the Artemis Program.
The OIG’s audit showed NASA’s xEMU program was years delayed and required more funding to meet even those deadlines. This poor performance wasn’t entirely NASA’s fault, congress repeatedly did not meet NASA’s requested funding year over year in its budget, but it was not a good sign for a then 2024 or even now a 2025 crewed landing on the Moon.
To hopefully solve this issue, NASA did what it now knows best and opened up the opportunity to buy EVA services from the commercial sector. Musk shared on Twitter that while this process by NASA was going on, he was willing to help with the agency’s problem. Although a SpaceX-built EVA suit was only rumored then, this offer further cemented the rumor as fact.
So it came as a surprise to many SpaceX fans when NASA announced the winners of the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) contract that there was no sign or word of SpaceX’s involvement. Now we know who submitted proposals, and it turns out SpaceX was nowhere to be seen. Not even a bid for the (now confirmed) EVA suit the company is working on for the Polaris Dawn mission.
Only proposals ended up being the two contract winners
Not many industry members were excited to submit their idea of what NASA astronauts should wear when they return to the Moon. In total, two companies submitted proposals; if you remember, two companies were awarded contracts by NASA. Those companies were Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace. Two competent companies with a history of working with NASA.
Although it leaves us wondering why so few companies wanted to participate in this, especially SpaceX, who could have used it to help fund the development program of its own suit. A version of the suit, based on the flight suit used during launch and reentry, is supposedly going to be ready by the end of this year. That is when the Polaris Dawn mission, a follow-up program by Inspiration4’s Jared Issacman, is expected to launch. On that mission, the Polaris Dawn crew will perform SpaceX’s first EVA, requiring SpaceX to develop a suit capable of the adventure.
So one has to ask if their free-flying EVA suit (versus one that can be used to walk around the Moon) is supposed to be ready by the end of this year, why didn’t they go for this contract? Maybe the development isn’t as far along as we believe it be. Cause SpaceX not wanting free money from NASA would be a silly thing to think.