Artist's illustration of Axiom Space's private space station. Photo: Axiom Space

Axiom Space, a company aiming to operate the first commercial space station in orbit, is planning to fly a crew of private citizens to the International Space Station (ISS) as early as next year using SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as NASA is working to expand commercial operations on the space station. These kinds of space tourism flights are expected to be a big part of that.

Details: The flight, which could launch as early as late 2021, is expected to bring one Axiom-trained flight commander alongside three tourists to live on the station for eight days.

  • "This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space — a first for a commercial entity," Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini said in a statement.
  • The company hasn't disclosed who the private individuals are or what they might do with their time onboard the station.

Between the lines: The announcement comes as SpaceX is pushing to fly its first astronauts for NASA to the ISS.

  • The Elon Musk-founded company has yet to fly its first people to orbit, but that milestone could come in the coming months as the company stages its first crewed flight for the space agency.

What's next: Axiom expects to fly up to two flights per year to the station, and the company is planning to build out its own modules on the orbiting outpost, with the first launching in 2024.

  • Eventually, Axiom plans to detach those modules and use them to build out its own space station in orbit.

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