Spacesuit delays impact NASA's Artemis plans

NASA has intended to put humans on the surface of the moon again by 2024. However, it now appears the 2024 timeframe won't happen. The NASA Office of Inspector general issued a report last week noting that the next-generation spacesuits required for the Artemis missions won't be available until 2025 at the soonest. However, the announcement leaves the door open for further delays as the spacesuits, which have cost about $1 billion to develop so far, have encountered problems.

The next generation NASA spacesuits are known as xEMUs, and the OIG says that while November 2024 remains the goal, there are significant challenges towards hitting that goal. Among the problems with spacesuit development was a 20-month delay in delivering prototype suits, including a demonstration version that would operate on the ISS and a pair of lunar flight suits. The report lays the reason for the delays at the feet of the pandemic and technical challenges.

Currently, NASA expects its next-gen spacesuits won't be ready for flight until at least April 2025 at the earliest. The delay has also significantly increased the cost of the spacesuits, with more than $1 billion already invested in the project. OIG believes that the delay in the spacesuits alone means the November 2024 goal is unfeasible.

The spacesuit isn't the only aspect of the Artemis program that has seen delays. Significant delays in other components required for the missions include issues with the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule. Another significant delay in developing the lunar lander for the mission is also impacting the 2024 mission launch.

The new spacesuits are required for exploring the moon. They will offer astronauts improved mobility, improved flexibility, and improved communications. NASA also says the spacesuit will fit a wider range of astronauts.