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Elon Musk gives for SpaceX to make NASA spacesuits, after watchdog says program to price $1 billion

Kristine Davis, a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson House Heart, wears a floor prototype of the brand new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), throughout an illustration on Oct. 15, 2019.

Joel Kowsky / NASA

Elon Musk provided SpaceX’s providers to assist NASA make its next-generation spacesuits, after a watchdog report on Tuesday mentioned the company’s present program is delayed and can price greater than $1 billion.

“SpaceX may do it if want be,” Musk wrote in a tweet.

Musk’s firm has developed and made flight fits for astronauts who launch into orbit in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The flight fits are primarily designed to guard the astronauts in case of a fireplace inside the spacecraft, or if the cabin depressurizes. Constructing spacesuits could be a extra advanced and difficult endeavor, given the necessity to survive exterior of a spacecraft within the harsh atmosphere of area.

NASA spokesperson Monica Witt, in an announcement to CNBC on Musk’s provide, pointed to the company’s request final month to firms within the area business for suggestions on “buying business spacesuits, {hardware}, and providers.”

From left: Mission specialist Thomas Pesquet of the ESA, pilot Megan McArthur of NASA, commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and mission specialist Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA.


Musk’s proposal got here in response to a report by NASA’s inspector basic – which is the investigative workplace which audits the company for fraud and mismanagement – on the work being accomplished to develop a brand new line of Extravehicular Mobility Items, that are informally referred to as spacesuits.

Astronauts on board the Worldwide House Station use spacesuits “designed 45 years in the past for the House Shuttle” program, the report famous. The IG additionally highlighted that these spacesuits have been “refurbished and partially redesigned” over the previous a long time to proceed working.

The area company has began three completely different spacesuit applications since 2007, the inspector basic discovered, and has spent $420.1 million on improvement since then. Moreover, the report mentioned NASA “plans to speculate roughly $625.2 million extra” on improvement, testing and qualification to finish a go well with for an illustration on the ISS and two fits for the crewed mission to the moon – for a complete price of “over $1 billion” by 2025.

NASA Inspector Basic

Past the hovering price, the inspector basic mentioned delays “attributable to funding shortfalls, COVID-19 impacts, and technical challenges” have eradicated the possibility the spacesuits are prepared in time. The spacesuits will “not be prepared for flight till April 2025 on the earliest,” the report mentioned. NASA initially mentioned the spacesuits could be prepared by March 2023.

NASA wants new spacesuits for its Artemis program, which was introduced by former President Donald Trump’s administration and has continued below President Joe Biden. Artemis is predicted to encompass a number of missions to the moon’s orbit and floor within the years forward, with NASA aiming to land astronauts on the lunar physique by 2024. Though NASA has caught to the 2024 objective, the inspector basic has warned repeatedly that the schedule is threatened by a number of main applications which might be key to Artemis’ success.

Musk earlier this yr referred to as the 2024 timeline “truly doable,” after SpaceX grew to become one of many important items of Artemis by profitable a $2.9 billion contract to make use of its Starship rocket to ship astronauts to the moon’s floor.

The spacesuits have a mess of various elements, which the inspector basic famous are provided by 27 completely different firms. That is a degree Musk additionally highlighted, saying in a tweet that it “looks as if too many cooks within the kitchen.”

SpaceX didn’t reply to CNBC’s request for touch upon whether or not the corporate has begun work by itself spacesuits. Whereas the corporate hasn’t publicly disclosed spacesuit plans, it’s one in every of almost 50 firms that expressed curiosity in NASA’s program to buy privately developed spacesuits and spacewalk providers.

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