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Artist's illustration of Axiom's space station modules. Image: Axiom Space

Axiom Space wants to build a space station for a new age of exploration, and last week, the Houston-based company started moving ahead with its plans in earnest.

Driving the news: NASA announced that the company has been chosen to add its first module to the International Space Station, opening up the orbiting laboratory to more commercial activities in the future.

The big picture: NASA wants to foster commercial enterprise in orbit so it becomes a user, not a provider, of services, freeing up the agency to focus on its broader goals like sending people to the Moon and Mars.

  • If Axiom succeeds in building and operating a commercial space station, it will mark a turning point for how space is used and who has access to it.
  • Axiom's station will be focused on catering to private companies and space agencies or even tourists who want to experience outer space for themselves.

Details: Axiom expects to launch its first module to the station by the second half of 2024, with a habitation module coming about six months later and a manufacturing module launching six months after that, Axiom co-founder Michael Suffredini told Axios.

  • When the International Space Station comes to an end, Axiom plans to remove its modules and become a free-standing station that can be accessed by the company's customers.
  • Axiom already has a deal with either Boeing or SpaceX — the company wouldn't confirm which — to fly an Axiom crew to the station in 2021.
  • "We expect to procure flights from both providers over time to fly our missions," Suffredini said. "We're beginning these flights early in order to set the cadence and the rhythm."

But, but, but: Axiom's business is potentially risky. The company will face a number of technical challenges around getting its station up and running, and the demand for a private space station in orbit isn't yet well understood.

Go deeper: Private spaceflight companies plan to capitalize on the ISS

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.