Experienced Spacesuit Manufacturers Form Teams to Bid on Next Generation Suit

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  Space News Business

Experienced Spacesuit Manufacturers Form Teams to Bid on Next Generation Suit

By BRIAN BERGER
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 17 October 2007
04:16 pm ET





WASHINGTON —


Two industry teams are expected to bid on the Constellation spacesuit contract NASA expects to award in mid-2008.

Windsor Locks, Conn.-based Hamilton Sundstrand and ILC Dover of Frederica, Del., firms that together supply NASA’s current spacesuit, plan to bid as a team to design and build that suit’s




successor.




Houston-based Oceaneering Space Systems is leading a team that includes the David Clark Company, the Worcester, Mass.-based supplier of the orange launch and entry pressure suits that space shuttle astronauts wear during liftoff and landing.

A formal request for proposals for the design, development and production of a new spacesuit system for future trips to the international space station and the Moon was released Oct. 1. Proposals are due Dec. 20 and NASA expects to make a contract award in June 2008.

The cost-plus-award-fee contract would run through 2013 and will cover the development of a suit and support systems that will protect Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle astronauts in the event of spacecraft cabin leaks, and provide a contingency spacewalk capability. NASA also wants the chosen contractor to do the initial development work for a lunar suit initially capable of supporting “a week’s worth of moon walks in one-sixth gravity,” according to a NASA release.

While Orion flights and lunar surface operations demand different suits, NASA wants the contractor to design




as much commonality as possible between the two suits




to minimize life-cycle costs and the amount of unique equipment astronauts will need









on the lunar sorties the United States hopes to start flying by 2020. The first space station-bound Orion flight is on track to happen by March 2015, according to Jeff Hanley, manager of NASA’s Constellation Program.

NASA plans




to buy suits and support systems for six space station-bound travelers and as many as four Moon-bound astronauts.




The space agency




is looking for a number of new features in its new




spacesuits. It wants them to be easy for astronauts to put on and




comfortable to wear whether the suit is pressurized or not




. NASA also wants prospective contractors to design the new suit with an eye toward minimizing its




mass, volume, maintenance and logistics requirements, operational overhead and life-cycle costs.

The initial contract would have two option periods that could keep whichever team is selected busy through at least 2018. Option 1 would cover completion of the design, development, test and evaluation for the lunar surface suit components. Option 2 would cover suit production under a firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract and sustain




engineering under a cost-plus-award-fee structure.

Hamilton Sundstrand and ILC Dover officials said earlier this year that their team’s 40 years of experience designing and maintaining the space suits NASA uses for spacewalks puts them in a strong position to build the space suit that will take NASA back to the Moon and beyond. Both companies also have been making internal investments in advanced space suit prototypes and life support system innovations.

The Oceaneering team also brings considerable experience to the competition. Oceaneering Space Systems operates NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory underwater astronaut training facility in Houston under subcontract to Raytheon Technical Services and also provides




engineering support for the hand tools space station astronauts use




during space walks. Oceaneering Space Systems’ parent company –






Oceanee





ring
International –




supports the offshore oil and gas industry by providing equipment and services for deep-sea diving and other underwater operations.

Oceaneering
teammate, the David Clark Company, has been in the pressure-suit business since the dawn of the jet age. Team member United Space Alliance, the Houston-based Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that helps NASA keep the space shuttle flying, is deeply involved in astronaut training and operations.

An Oceaneering source, who did not want to be identified by name or position since he did not have permission from his boss to talk to the press, said the team roster has been fleshed out since spring to include Morristown, N.J.-based Honeywell and Melbourne, Fla.-based Harris Corp. The source said Honeywell was added for its life support systems expertise, while Harris was tapped to help design the suits radio communications capabilities.