On Tuesday, August 10, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that his company could help develop NASA’s new spacesuits after he saw an audit report by the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) detailing significant delays in spacesuit development. The OIG audit states that NASA planned to develop the first two flight-ready spacesuits, formally known as Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMU), by November 2024 but they found that the “Agency will face significant challenges meeting this goal. This schedule includes an overall delay of approximately 20 months in delivery of the planned design, verification, and testing suit, two qualification suits, ISS [International Space Station] Demo suit, and two lunar flight suits due to funding shortfalls, COVID-19 impacts, and technical challenges-delays that have left no schedule margin in the project,” the audit states, “Given these challenges, we believe the current approach to spacesuit development will preclude a 2024 lunar landing.”
NASA aims to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 under the Artemis program that is designed to build a sustainable base camp to explore our closest celestial neighbor. The agency has invested billions of dollars into returning humans to the lunar surface. The Inspector General determined that “by the time two flight-ready spacesuits are completed, NASA will have spent over a billion dollars on the development and assembly of its next-generation spacesuits.”
“Since 2007, NASA has spent about $420.1 million on spacesuit development. Going forward, the Agency plans to invest approximately $625.2 million more,” the Inspector General said, adding that they expect the EMU suits to be “ready for flight until April 2025 at the earliest.” The spacesuits are under development by the agency and feature 97 components that are supplied by “27 different contractors and vendors.”
Upon reading the report, Musk proposed that his company could develop the spacesuits - “SpaceX could do it if need be,” he wrote in a Tweet. “It seems like too many cooks in the kitchen,” he added, in reference to a Inspector General chart detailing how portions of the suit are being designed by multiple vendors, pictured below. This year, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to develop a lunar-optimized Starship to land astronauts on the Moon. The company’s current operational spacesuit is designed to maintain a safe environment inside pressurized spacecraft and not for use during spacewalks, however, Musk said that SpaceX can develop a spacesuit for extravehicular activities as well.
Seems like too many cooks in the kitchen— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 10, 2021
SpaceX could do it if need be— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 10, 2021
All Images Source: SpaceX