March 2, 2009

NASA awards spacesuit contract

The U.S. space agency says it has awarded an interim letter contract to Oceaneering International Inc. of Houston for a new spacesuit system.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration contract is for the design, development and production of the new spacesuit system for the Constellation Program. The system will protect astronauts during voyages to the International Space Station and exploration of the moon's surface.

NASA said the letter contract requires Oceaneering to begin work on the basic period of performance while space agency and company officials negotiate the contract's final terms. The current letter contract is limited to $9.6 million and will remain in effect until the full contract is defined, no later than Aug. 29.

The spacesuit and support systems will provide protection against the launch and landing environment and spacecraft cabin leaks, NASA said. The system offers the ability to conduct contingency spacewalks. For short trips to the moon, the suit design will support a week's worth of moon walks. The system also must be designed to support multiple spacewalks during potential six-month lunar outpost expeditions.

Suits and support systems will be needed for as many as four astronauts on moon voyages and as many as six space station travelers, officials said.