Watch next-generation lightweight spacesuit tested on Zero-G flight (photos, video)

A new International Space Station spacesuit design now has several minutes of microgravity testing under its belt.

Collins Aerospace put a new spacesuit for International Space Station spacewalks through its paces on 40 parabolic flights with Zero G concluding this month, the company said in a statement Wednesday (Jan. 31).

"Throughout a series of entry and exit tasks, crew mobility assessments and suit donning, we observed that the suit performed as designed, affording increased range of motion and ease of movement," Peggy Guirgis, general manager of space systems for Collins, said in the statement.

Parabolic flights simulate microgravity or weightlessness for about 30 seconds at a time as the plane pushes into the air at a high angle, crests at the top and then falls in a controlled fashion before swooping up again.

Related: I flew weightlessly on a parabolic flight to see incredible student science soar

Collins Aerospace put a new spacesuit for International Space Station spacewalks through testing on 40 parabolic flights with Zero G. (Image credit: Collins Aerospace)

NASA tasked Collins in 2022 with developing a next-generation Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit that will be more flexible, lighter and able to accommodate more body sizes during spacewalks.

The current generation of spacesuit on ISS was designed in the 1970s when the astronaut corps was fully male. Aside from the current spacesuits being old, they trend on the larger and stiffer side. 

Collins Aerospace testing a new spacesuit design on a Zero G parabolic flight. (Image credit: Collins Aerospace)

NASA's Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) agreements in May 2022 gave the opportunity to Collins and its partners, along with a team led by Axiom Space, to create an updated version with flexibility and sizing to suit different genders and a wider variety of astronaut bodies. xEVAS is meant to target both ISS missions and NASA's Artemis program that will put astronauts on the moon in the 2020s, at the earliest.

Collins Aerospace testing a new spacesuit design on a Zero G parabolic flight. (Image credit: Collins Aerospace)

The agreement allowed both Collins and Axiom the chance to bid on NASA task orders for specific projects, and Collins received one in December 2022. Collins, along with partners ILC Dover and Oceaneering, would "design, develop and demonstrate" a spacesuit design for future ISS missions, the company stated when the task order was awarded.

Collins Aerospace testing a new spacesuit design in a simulated ISS airlock. (Image credit: Collins Aerospace)

Collins' parabolic flights concluding this month included an environment with a "similar geometry" to the ISS airlock, and evaluated metrics such as "reach, workspace access, comfort, ease of use and injury reduction measures" for astronauts, the company stated in its most recent release. Collins has also been consulting with astronauts (former and current) to learn more about needs during spacewalks.

The company is shooting for a critical design review to finalize the design. More testing will happen first, however, in a simulated vacuum environment, as well as underwater at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for spacewalk training in Houston, near the agency's Johnson Space Center.

Aside from the ISS work by Collins, both Collins and Axiom received a combined $10 million task order in July 2023 for Artemis. Collins plans to modify its floating-style spacesuit to make it suitable for walking on the lunar surface, officials said at the time. Axiom will make modifications to its surface suit for future activities.

A separate task order asked Axiom to supply the spacesuits for debut moon landing mission Artemis 3 (expected now for 2026). The surface spacesuit may reach a critical design review this summer.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon:

  • NilesCanada
    Can somebody please help me find the video? I've clicked on every link and photo. Collins Aerospace does not let me turn off Third-party cookies on their website. Thanks