NASA has selected Houston-based Axiom Space to build a privately funded platform that will attach to the International Space Station (ISS). The project is a major move in the effort to maintain humans’ presence in outer space and could pave the way for a future commercial space station.
Axiom is partnering with Boeing and other contractors on the project that could cost $2 billion and create approximately 1,000 jobs. The company expects to launch its first module as soon as 2024.
NASA began soliciting proposals in June for companies to join a public-private partnership to develop and demonstrate technologies for a future commercial space station. It’s the space agency’s latest effort to create a bridge between its work and the private sector, bringing more commercial companies into the NASA orbit.
“Axiom’s work to develop a commercial destination in space is a critical step for NASA to meet its long-term needs for astronaut training, scientific research, and technology demonstrations in low Earth orbit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration. It is a similar partnership that this year will return the capability of American astronauts to launch to the space station on American rockets from American soil.”
The Axiom commercial platform is likely to include a node module, an orbital research and manufacturing facility, a crew habitat, and a “large-windowed Earth observatory” said to be similar in appearance to the International Space Station’s cupola module. The new segment will add more research and habitation facilities to the ISS.
Axiom’s founders are space entrepreneur Kam Ghaffarian and Michael Suffredini, who served as NASA’s space station program manager from 2005 to 2015.
“Axiom exists to provide the infrastructure in space for a variety of users to conduct research, discover new technologies, test systems for exploration of the moon and Mars, manufacture superior products for use in orbit and on the ground, and ultimately improve life back on Earth,” Suffredini said. “As we build on the legacy and foundation established by the ISS program, we look forward to working with NASA and the ecosystem of current and future international partners on this seminal effort.”
As the home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston has been the epicenter of human space exploration for nearly six decades. Every manned U.S. space mission since 1961 has been planned and executed from Houston and for nearly 20 years JSC’s Mission Control has served as the control facility for the U.S. segment of the International Space Station. JSC manages an annual budget of roughly $4.6 billion in contracts, grants, payroll and recruitment.
Houston is currently home to more than 250 companies involved in aircraft or space vehicle manufacturing, research and technology. Of the 50 largest aersopace manufacturing companies in the country, 32 have a presence in the Houston region.
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