Prototype of the New NASA Space Suits

Image (Credit): New Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuit. (NASA)

It is called the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or AxEMU, but you can call it a lunar spacesuit. The newly designed spacesuit was on display today at the Space Center Houston’s Moon 2 Mars Festival. While the final suit will be in white, you get the idea with the prototype on display.

Axiom Space, the maker of the spacesuit, noted:

Since a spacesuit worn on the Moon must be white to reflect heat and protect astronauts from extreme high temperatures, a cover layer is currently being used for display purposes only to conceal the suit’s proprietary design. Axiom Space collaborated with costume designer Esther Marquis from the Apple TV+ series, “For All Mankind” to create this custom cover layer using the Axiom Space logo and brand colors.

It makes it sound like something being designed for Hollywood fans rather than a NASA-procurement contract. Is Axiom Space competing with Elon Musk on his design (see below)? Or maybe the company is trying to match the spacesuits from Lost in Space (also below)?

Whatever the case, NASA hopes to use these new suits for the lunar exploration under Artemis III. Moreover, NASA states these suits can fit “…at least 90 percent of the US male and female population.” I think they mean 90 percent of the population qualifying for such a mission. We cannot even fit the average American into train seats made for Europeans, so either the qualifying population is limited or these suits have a LOT of stretch-room.

Image (Credit): SpaceX astronaut spacesuits for the Dragon capsule. (SpaceX)
Image (Credit): Spacesuits on Lost in Space. (Netflix)

One More Rocket Mishap, This Time in Japan

Image (Credit): Japan’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite-3, which was lost in the latest rocket failure. (JAXA)

The string of rocket failures continues. I had earlier mentioned the UK and Alaskan mishaps, while an Arianespace Vega C rocket launch from French Guiana when awry last December, and now Japan has suffered its own failure this week. Tuesday’s failed launch of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) H3 rocket is a setback for this new rocket. When the second stage of the rocket failed to ignite, the rocket self-destructed. The destruction included the rocket’s payload – the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-3.

In additional to assisting with key Japanese defense and research satellite payloads, the H-3 rocket is part of Japan’s plan to assist with cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) as well as future Artemis missions. Japan will need to figure out what happened here and get back into the game as soon as possible.

Following the recent failure of two Russian capsules at the ISS, this latest mishap demonstrates that both new and well-tested government-run space missions are subject to failure and delays. Redundancy within the commercial space industry will be critical as a backstop to these government-run programs.

SpaceX Agrees to Work with Scientists to Reduce Impact of its Satellites

Image (Credit): Artist’s rendering of a Starlink satellite in orbit. (SpaceX)

Earlier this month, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and SpaceX came to an agreement to “mitigate potential interference” from its Starlink satellites. These satellites have been impacting ground-based radio, optical, and infrared astronomy facilities.

Basically, SpaceX agreed to continue working on recommendations and best practices from the scientific community, ensure the second generation of Starlink satellites are darker and less intrusive in the night sky, continue to assist with studies on the satellites impact on astronomy facilities, and improve overall coordination with these scientific facilities.

It is a tall order, but any company pumping thousands of satellites into the night sky should have some responsibilities to others using that same sky. SpaceX is just the first of many companies with big plans for the night sky, so maybe this will set a precedent for the satellites that follow, or at least the U.S. satellites. I am note sure we can do anything about the Chinese and others, but the United Nations cans certainly create similar standards at the international level.

In the agreement, the NSF stated:

NSF and SpaceX have collaborated from the beginning on how best to meet the goals of protecting astronomy while also providing maximum internet access for communities across the United States. The mitigation steps taken can and should serve as a model for coordination among satellite operators and the astronomy community within the United States and beyond.

Let’s hope the NSF is right.

Fortified Rockets? Ask the Pentagon

Image (Credit): China’s KZ-11 transport launch system, which may be a model for an anti-satellite system. (

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal published an article, “Space Launches Should Withstand Chinese Challenge, Pentagon Mandate Says,” regarding new rocket requirements being developed by the US Department of Defense (DOD). It appears the Pentagon is worried about both the Russians and Chinese interfering with the launches of spy satellites. It doesn’t help to have an ongoing war in Ukraine where the Russians have already threatened US satellites. As a result, commercial rocket companies will need to meet some new specs on future missions.

DOD has already started the move to smaller satellites with dispersed missions to eliminate big space targets, which also allows for smaller companies to get into the game. More satellites launched from more locations (if not mobile locations) can assist the military with its missions whether it is facing errors or attacks. Even with some recent rocket mishaps, the story on the ground is positive as more companies join the industry while satellites get smaller and smaller.

This is not the space race the astronomy community wants to have, but the militarization of space is nothing new and is the primary reason we even started the space program. If the Blue Marble is not enough for us to understand the cost of war on the ground and in space, I am not sure what will work.

Update on Artemis III

Image (Credit): Arstist’s rendering of SpaceX Starship human landing system design. (SpaceX)

The other week, NASA revealed an update on the Artemis III mission to the Moon in 2025. Now that Artemis I was a success and Artemis II is being readied, Artemis III is becoming much clearer on the horizon. The plan focuses on the first crew to land on the surface, noting that future missions will be involved in building the Gateway lunar space station.

While the Space Launch System (SLS) will get the crew into orbit on Orion, SpaceX has been chosen to bring this first crew to the moon. However, SpaceX will first need to test this human landing system on the Moon without a crew.

The landing site is likely to be on the Moon’s South Pole involving two astronauts who will take the SpaceX human landing system to the surface. They will conduct their research work in Axiom space suits.

It all may have become routine back in the 1970s, but NASA is demoing everything all over again to ensure new systems and new parties are up to par for this return to the Moon. The world is watching again, particularly China. We need to be perfect in this overdue first step back into human space travel.

You can view all of the parts of the mission in the graphic below.

Image (Credit): Artemis III mission map. (NASA)