WASHINGTON — NASA has awarded an interim letter contract to Oceaneering International Inc. of Houston to begin work on the design, development and production of a 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.

The letter contract requires Oceaneering International to begin work on the basic period of performance while NASA and the company negotiate the contract’s final terms. The current award amount for the performance of the letter contract is limited to $9.6 million. It will become effective March 2 and be in effect until the full contract is defined, no later than Aug. 29, 2009.

The defined contract will include the same basic period of performance and contract options as those in the contract awarded in June 2008. The project schedule has been updated to align with the latest Constellation Program schedule. Changes also were made to include Federal Acquisition Regulation and NASA Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement updates. The schedule updates result in a basic period of performance of March 2009 to September 2015. The extension of the period of performance is required to support the Constellation Program schedule.

Option 1 covers completion of design, development, test and evaluation for the moon surface suit components. It has been adjusted to begin in October 2011 and run through September 2020. Option 2, for the suit astronauts will wear in the Orion crew module, provides for production, processing and sustaining engineering under a cost-plus-award fee or a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract structure. It will begin at the end of the basic performance period in October 2015 and run through September 2020.

The spacesuit and support systems will provide protection against the launch and landing environment and spacecraft cabin leaks. 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.

Animation of the new designs and more information about NASA’s Constellation Program are available online at: