This may look like anastronaut training for theOlympics, but that's notwhat's really happeninghere.For the ISS, you want arigid lower half with theability to rotate aroundthe waist and then aconsistent workingenvelope. Which is aboutright here in front of you.Easy to translate along thehandrails. So low torque inthe upper joints.Good dexterity in thegloves is a big one.Eric Valis is a seniorsystems engineer.He's been testing out aprototype of a newspacesuit, which NASA hopesto use on the InternationalSpace Station by 2026.The spacesuits that arebeing used now in theInternational Space Stationby NASA are suits that werereally designed in theseventies. These are suitsthat were originallydesigned for the SpaceShuttle program. Due to thelack of funding, NASA keptworking on them, keptrepairing them andmaintaining them for allthese many years.But really, these are suitsthat are at the end of theiruseful life.NASA's tried to updated itssuits in the past.A 2021 report by NASA'sOffice of Inspector Generalfound that NASA has spentover a decade and anestimated $420 million todevelop a next-generationreplacement for its agingspacesuits, but failed toproduce any operationalsuits.Estimates show that by thetime new spacesuits areactually in use, NASA willhave spent more than abillion dollars on theredesign and production.There were two differentissues.One was the lack offunding. NASA, they had toget funds, you know, fromsometimes from otherprojects to to fund theirsuit.And the second problem wasthat there was nodestination. The projectsof NASA have been movingthrough different politicalagendas during the last fewyears. And something thatyou need in any scientificand technologicalorganization is a purposeand a timeline.NASA is now going anotherroute, contracting withcommercial companies tomake and maintain its newsuits.So without further ado, I'mvery happy to announce thatthe awardees will be AxiomSpace and Collins AerospaceIndustry Team.CNBC got a rare look insideCollins Aerospace's new120,000-square-footmanufacturing and testingfacility located at theHouston Spaceport in Texas,where the company showed usits new spacesuit.NASA's current spacesuits,known as extravehicularmobility units, or EMUs inNASA's speak, are verycomplex.The current spacesuit hasroughly 18,000 componentsthat make it up, and theinterior volume of the suitis roughly equivalent tothe size of a smallrefrigerator, about 5.5cubic feet.There have been a number ofsafety concerns over theyears due to the agingspacesuits.A final investigation is infollowing the near-drowningin space of that Italianastronaut doing a spacewalkoutside the InternationalSpace Station.His equipment failed him.In fact, they say it washis calm demeanor thatprobably saved his lifeafter his helmet filled withwater.In 2022, NASA temporarilysuspended all spacewalksfollowing another incidentwhere an astronaut's helmetfilled with water.We're starting to see somedegradation of performance,some components that needto be replaced.So on Space Station, we'rereally watching very, veryclosely the performance ofthe EMUs while they arestill on orbit.In the meantime, these newsuits, for this particularfailure of water in thehelmet, the new designs aredesigned such that thatfailure mechanism cannotoccur.Inventory issues are also aproblem.In 2019, NASA was forced tocancel what would have beenthe first all-femalespacewalk on theInternational Space Stationbecause the agency did nothave the proper spacesuitsizes available for bothfemale astronauts.In the beginning of humanspace exploration, thespacesuits were custommade.With the beginning of theSpace Shuttle Program, therewas this idea of abandoningthe custom size system andgoing to small, medium andlarge.That worked for a while.But as our astronaut corpsis getting more and morediverse, the sizes don'twork anymore.NASA's Office of InspectorGeneral also noted that ofthe original 18 primarylife support system units,only 11 remain in NASA'sinventory to support the ISSprogram, with only four ofthese units actually on theISS at any given time forastronauts to use duringspacewalks.These are suits that wereoriginally designed not tobe serviced in space, butto be serviced here on Earthbecause they were dependenton the Space Shuttle.So now it kind of changedthe objective because theyhave to keep them up there.And the astronauts are theonly ones who can repair andmaintain them. So thenumber is very, veryminimal.The portable life supportsystem or PLSS resembles abulky backpack and is oneof the two main componentsof the spacesuit or EMU.The PLSS houses a varietyof components that performfunctions needed to keep anastronaut alive in space,including providing oxygen,maintaining bodytemperature, and removingcarbon dioxide buildup fromthe spacesuit. The secondmajor component is thepressure garment system, orPGS, which is the whitegarment that surroundsastronauts. Its main purposeis to maintain appropriatepressure around astronauts'bodies to keep them alivein the vacuum of space, aswell as protect them fromorbital debris.Underneath the PGS,astronauts don a liquidcooling and ventilationgarment through which coolwater flows to helpregulate their bodytemperature. The new suitdesigns follow a similarsuit structure, but aremodernized.There's just normal, what wecall obsolescence issues,certain parts we just can'tget anymore.And so we are building anew suit so that we canstart using new components,take advantage of all of thenew technologies that areavailable to us now thatjust simply weren'tavailable nearly 50 yearsago.Under the ExplorationExtravehicular ActivityServices Contract or xEVAs,NASA is providing Collinsand Axiom, along with anumber of their industrypartners, with up to $3.5billion through 2034.Axiom won the first $228.5million contract to designthe suits that will be usedduring NASA's Artemis Moonmissions. And Collins wonthe second $97.2 millioncontract to design anddevelop a new generation ofsuits for the InternationalSpace Station.In addition to making thespacesuits, Collins andAxiom will be tasked withproviding maintenance andparts to keep the suits inworking condition, as wellas conducting training andoperational support forNASA's staff.The beauty of this contractis the functionalrequirements for these twosuits are very, very close.So at any given time wecould ask either of thosecontractors to actuallystart working on the other,what we call, platforms.And we also have, what wecall, an on ramp clause inthe contract, which meansif another company comesinto play and they have thecapability to compete, wecan actually bring them onto the contract and allowthem to compete on taskorders as well.Kearney says the continuedcompetition helpsincentivize the contractorsto perform on cost andschedule and ultimatelyhelps keep the expense tothe government down. Inaddition to the fiscalsupport, NASA also providedthe vendors with access todata from theorganization's own suitdevelopment efforts throughits xEMU project.What we basically did wastake that design and we madeit available to industrybecause we put a lot of ofwork and taxpayer moneyinto developing that system.And so as industry came inand proposed on the Artemissuits, they were able touse any of the data we hadavailable from the xEMUdevelopment effort.Axiom Space would not giveCNBC a sneak peek of itsspacesuit designs prior toa public reveal.To design this newspacesuit, Collins Aerospaceis working with longtimepartner ILC Dover, as wellas Oceaneering. Collins,which is part of aerospaceand defense giant, RaytheonTechnologies, is responsiblefor the life supportsystem, while ILC Dover isin charge of devising thepressure garment.Oceaneering will handlespacesuit and vehicleinterface capabilities.The companies have a longhistory of working withNASA.We were actually selected todesign and develop andprovide those spacesuitsfor the Apollo mission,along with our partner, ILCDover.We were actually alsoselected to design anddevelop the Space ShuttleEMU or extravehicularmobility unit.ILC Dover and Collins alsodesigned the spacesuits thatastronauts currently use onthe ISS.One striking difference,though, is the weight.The current EMU weighsabout 275 pounds on Earth,significantly heavier thanthe prototype that CNBC saw.There are also otherupgrades.This helmet is differentthan the one that's used onthe EMU now. It offers abetter range of visibility.It has protective visors toprotect from the sun'sradiation and glare.The upper torso isadjustable, so it fits crewmembers better and can beadjusted while they're onorbit or during a missionto help prevent shoulderinjuries and to make theirEVA more comfortable forthem. The upper arm is alsonew to this architecture.It provides a better rangeof motion and a lower torquemotion than the currentEMU.Ferl says that while thecurrent EMU fits the fifthto 95th percentile ofastronauts, this new suit isdesigned to fit the firstto 99th percentile ofastronauts using fewerparts.As a result, 30% lesshardware needs to belaunched into space,meaning lower launch costsand decreased crew trainingtime.Another big improvement inthis new generation of suitsis their increased mobilityand range of motion.Things like standing up, youreally got to find theangles to rotate your body,but it's definitelysomething that we couldn'tdo before in the EMU.Extended range of motionbecomes particularlyimportant for planetaryexploration.Though Collins' contractwith NASA calls for makingspacesuits for theInternational Space Station,the company and itspartners are designing thesuit with future planetarymissions, like trips to Marsand the moon, in mind.For something like the Moonor Mars, definitely the lessrestriction you have in thelower body, the better.Being able to catchyourself if you start tofall is a big plus,especially with all the dustconcerns. So good mobility.Stabilization is important.One of the biggesttechnological challenges forgoing back to the moon isthe dust dust particles,which are like theconsistency of talcumpowder. They sieve throughany fabric, so the fabrichas to be coated or solidagainst the intrusion ofdust particles.A lot of the lessons learnedfrom Apollo need to beapplied and incorporated,so greater mobility, reducedmass, greater connectivityfor the astronauts.They need a better abilityto see what is going on withour suits, communicate witheach other, because as wecontinue to go further andfurther from Earth, you'regoing to have to have allof that capability, reallyself-contained. Crewmembers need to be able tooperate somewhatindependently from Earth.Something else that suitmakers have to consider isthe length of time thatastronauts will be spendingon missions.When we think about some ofthose longer durationmissions, some of the otheraspects that we'veincorporated is really justthe maintainability.The ability to domaintenance at lower levelsand enable that work to bedone at the destination.So we've incorporatedmodularity and openarchitecture. So as newtechnologies are introduced,they can be incorporatedinto the suit.Under the contractstipulations, NASA has askedAxiom to deliver the suitsfor its Artemis Moon missionby August 2025.While Collins' ISSspacesuits are scheduled fordelivery by 2026.Prior to being worn byastronauts on missions, thesuits have to undergoextensive testing.We require crew membertesting in the pressuregarment to make surethey're meeting the mobilityrequirements. And then wealso require testing what wecall relevant environments.So that could be a thermalvacuum chamber, that couldbe in the NBL, that couldbe actually testing on orbiton Space Station.Since NASA's purchasing itssuits from Collins and Axiomas a service, the vendorsare free to make additionalsuits for non-NASAcustomers as well.Though Collins would notdisclose the names of any ofits other customers, thecompany says it's speakingwith about 8 to 10companies who are interestedin their spacesuitservices.The new customers that we'relooking at are not just thecurrent batch of commercialspace customers.There are countries thatare looking to be involvedin space that were not inthe past able toparticipate. And as spacecommercializes and becomesmore affordable, thosecountries now have theopportunity to step in.Romero also predicts thatthe design of these newspacesuits will continue toevolve to fit the new usecases of its broadercustomer base.Today, we use it formaintenance and repair, verylittle for experientialactivities where you'regoing out and doing spacetourism.That's really not a part ofEVA today, but that probablywill become a part of EVAin the future.Future programs will havemore interaction withrobotics, so our suit needsto be in a position to beable to communicate withthe robotic systems and beable to safely operatearound a robot.And it could be bigbusiness. The space tourismmarket is poised to reach$4 billion by 2030.NASA is also looking beyondcommercial companies forideations of futurespacesuits. In 2020, Pablode León and his team at theSpace Flight Laboratory atthe University of NorthDakota won a $750,000 NASAgrant to develop a new3D-printed spacesuitprototype for Mars andbeyond.De León has worked on anumber of NASA spacesuitprojects in the past, butsays this one's a littledifferent.Some of the advantages willbe first to make repeatablemanufacturing. The secondwill be that you can scanthe body and then build asuit that will bespecifically designedprecisely to that particularastronaut. And the thirdone is that once that ourspaceflights go furtheraway from the Earth and wego, say to Mars forexample, we're more than oneyear away from our planet.And if we need areplacement, say a glove orany other part of aspacesuit, you know, we areone year away to get thatreplacement.So what about if you canbuild a machine that willput together your suits andyou bring the machine toMars?De León adds that exploringthe surface of the moon andMars will likely mean thatastronauts will be using thespacesuits much morefrequently.Going back to the moon willrequire that we'll doexplorations almost everyday or every two days.The same for Mars.Spacesuits, I think theykind of hit a nerve withpeople just because there'sa very human element tothem. It's exciting to workon something that's socritical, that keeps crewmembers alive and safe.I know it's a bigresponsibility that we feelevery day when we makedecisions in the designs.Yeah, it's really it'sreally exciting.