Axiom Space, a company that aims to launch a private space station, has selected a builder for two critical modules for the commercial orbital platform.
The new commercial agreement marks a step forward in Axiom Space's quest to add a new module to the International Space Station (ISS) — one that will become an independent station of its own once the ISS is deorbited.
In January, NASA agreed to allow Axiom Space, a Houston-based company, to construct a new space station module that would launch in 2024 and increase the amount of habitable space astronauts have to work with on the ISS. When the space station retires, the Axiom Space component will detach and take on a life of its own as an independent commercial outpost. Now, Axiom has hired Thales Alenia Space, a European space company, to design and build two crucial components of that module.
"The legacy of the International Space Station structure is one of safety and reliability despite huge technical complexity," Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini, who spent a decade as NASA's ISS program manager, said in a statement. "We are thrilled to combine Axiom's human spaceflight expertise with Thales Alenia Space's experience to build the next stage of human settlement in low Earth orbit from a foundation that is tried and tested."
The two components covered by the agreement are Axiom's Habitation Module and a micrometeoroid protection system for the Axiom Node One (a connecting module), both of which will be pressurized, according to the statement. But this will hardly be the first time Thales Alenia sends station components to orbit. In fact, when Axiom launches the completed module, it will dock at a space station node that was built, coincidentally, by Thales Alenia.
"This mission is an important step toward enabling the development of independent commercial destinations and fostering the growth of a strong and competitive low-Earth orbit economy," Massimo Comparini, senior executive vice president at Thales Alenia Space, said in the same statement. "Together with our partner Axiom we are happy to partake in this new enterprise of building the new sustainable low Earth orbit market based on commercial space destinations."
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Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.