Feb 4, 2020 - Science

Axiom's big space station future

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

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