WASHIINGTON — Axiom Space has selected an unconventional partner to assist in its development of spacesuits that will be worn by the next NASA astronauts to walk on the moon: Prada.
Axiom Space and Prada, the Italian luxury fashion house, announced Oct. 4 they would collaborate on spacesuits Axiom is developing for use on Artemis missions, starting with Artemis 3 in 2025. Axiom Space will take advantage of Prada’s expertise in soft goods and other technologies to help with the suits.
“While it doesn’t seem obvious what the technological reasons are for collaborating with a company like Prada,” acknowledged Michael Suffredini, chief executive of Axiom Space, in an interview, “they’re more than just a fashion company. They actually do quite a bit of technologically advanced things.”
“Embedded in the culture of the company is much more than fashion,” said Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada Group marketing director, in an interview. He pointed to the company’s expertise in composite materials that dates back to the 1990s, when it founded the Luna Rossa yachting team to compete for the America’s Cup.
Prada will assist Axiom in working on the outer layer of its spacesuit, which has to protect the suit’s inner layers from the space environment, including lunar dust, without hindering its mobility. “When it comes to the design side of that piece of it makes a lot of sense because Prada has a lot of experience in the design, the look and feel,” Suffredini said. “More importantly, there’s these technological challenges to try to overcome as well.”
“The suit, I think, is a perfect representation of something where you need a holistic approach,” Bertelli said. “We have a lot of know how in how to package fabrics together to create better mobility.”
Suffredini said he is also interested in taking advantage of Prada’s expertise in composites. Using composites for parts of the torso and pants of the suit, he said, could make the suit lighter. “When you’re going to space, mass is king, so this can be a huge advantage for us.”
He said that he had heard about Prada’s technological expertise while in Italy on other business for Axiom Space. Bertelli said that, around that time, Prada was looking at how to leverage its technical expertise in other fields.
“Our first meeting was very interesting because we were really talking about ideas about how to work together. We didn’t really know exactly what those would be,” Suffredini said. “We wanted to work with very forward-leaning companies in other industries, not just in space.”
“We really understood each other very quickly, and I think what we’re doing is going to be a win-win for both of us,” Bertelli said. “I’m sure in the future we will have bigger projects to work together on.”
Suffredini said that the partnership with Prada could expand to other projects, such as Axiom’s commercial space station plans. “I think there’ll be a lot there’s a lot of areas where you could see Prada helping out.”
For now, though, the focus in on the spacesuit. “The most important thing I tell my team every day is that we’re going to make this schedule. We’re going to build a suit., it’s going to be a fantastic suit, but we’re going to build it on time,” Suffredini said.
That suit is being developed for NASA under a $228.5 million task order awarded in September 2022 as part of the Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services program, where NASA will procure spacesuits for both Artemis missions and the International Space Station as services. Suffredini said Axiom Space informed NASA of its plans to work with Prada and that the agency is supportive. “They’ve been very receptive to everything we’ve done so far in the suit world and are open to this as well.”
One question is what the suit will look like with that outer layer developed in partnership with Prada; the companies released only glimpses of the suit. The focus on the design of that outer layer, Bertelli said, will be on its functionality. “But there are areas where you feel there will be a bit of room for creativity,” he added.
“I am excited to see what the ultimate design looks like with the creativity of Prada involved,” Suffredini said. “I can’t tell you what it’s going to look like, but I feel good about it. It’s going to look very unique compared to what spacesuits formerly looked like.”