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 (opens in new tab). "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."
- New virtual tour lets you explore the International Space Station
- The NASA monopoly on US orbital spaceflight is ending
- NASA: The International Space Station is open for commercial business in orbit
OFFER: Save 45% on 'All About Space' 'How it Works' and 'All About History'! (opens in new tab)
For a limited time, you can take out a digital subscription to any of our best-selling science magazines (opens in new tab) for just $2.38 per month, or 45% off the standard price for the first three months.