NASA has partnered with private player Axiom Space to build the first commercial space station in history, which will serve as a luxurious destination in space to attract astro-tourists.
Axiom Space is a Houston-based privately funded American company working as aerospace manufacturers and orbital spaceflight. Founded by Michael T. Sufferdini in the year 2016, the company has been on the news for its first all-private space tour to the ISS in a collaboration with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. It aims to create the necessary commercial infrastructures to take humans forward in space and its latest project is a commercial space station for which Axiom recently raised $130 million.
About the Project
Axiom Space was selected by NASA in January 2020 to build a commercial space station module that will be attached to the International Space Station initially. Their first module is slated to launch in 2024 followed by additional Axiom modules to provide areas for research, manufacturing, and housing. This space station will later detach and perform as an independent space station once the current space station retires.
This space station is expected to cost about $2 Billion that the company aims to fund through private investments and revenues. They will be providing full-service human spaceflight missions along with brand partnerships and research customers to generate these investments and revenues.
Investments and Funding
In a recent post on their official website on 16th February 2021, Axiom Space announced that it has raised $130 Million in Series B funding to build the world’s first commercial space station. This funding round was led by C5 Capital followed by Declaration Partners, TQS Advisors, Washington University in St. Louis, Aidenlair Capital, Hemisphere Ventures, The Venture Collective, Moelis Dynasty Investments, and Starbridge Venture Capital. The operating partner at C5 Capital, Rob Meyerson will be joining Axiom’s Board of Directors at the soonest. In an interview with CNBC about C5’s plan of action about Axiom, Meyerson revealed that they plan to make Axiom the centerpiece of the C5 capital’s portfolio. He also said that they aim to build several new businesses in space based on Axiom infrastructure and to treat it as the “foundation for future exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”
Sufferdini, the president of Axiom stated that they expect the company to assess the public-versus-private conversation the next time they opt for fundraisers. He also added that the company is looking forward to two-three acquisitions in the coming years to review different ways to boost the company’s complementary capabilities while it grows.
Creating New Destinations in Space
With its latest projects, it is quite certain that Axiom focuses beyond only flying people to space. Their true target at the moment is to create habitable modules that can operate alongside International Space Station as well as without it once ISS retires.
The company will build a manufacturing high bay similar to the one built for ISS at the Kennedy Space Center and carry on from there. Its headquarter will have a control center, training facilities, jet hangers for astronaut training flights, and assembly areas. Even though the cost of this project looks seemingly huge, Sufferdini sounds hopeful about the company raising enough funds over the next four years.
Watch: Axiom Space announces plans for first ever private mission to the ISS
Axiom’s private astronaut mission with SpaceX
Before Axiom builds its first private space station, the company is already making headlines due to a private space tour with SpaceX, where a crew of four is set to fly to ISS called Ax-1 (also Inspiration4 by SpaceX), this is going to be the first-ever fully-private funded mission to the International Space Station.
The mission is expected to cost about $200 million and is completely paid for by the individuals. The team will be led by the former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and includes the Chief of the Connor Group Larry Corron, the CEO and Chairman of Marvik Mark Pathy, and the former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe. Lopez-Alegria will be joining the mission as the commander, Larry Connor will be the pilot, while Stibbe and Pathy will be there as the mission specialists.
Future of Space Tourism
Even though private space tourism is nothing new, but this mission will certainly bring some definite changes in the sector of space tourism. With Axiom’s luxurious private space station built alongside the ISS, it will surely open new horizons for space travel. Though the travel might be limited within a certain part of the society for now, in near future we can certainly expect the boundary to expand a little more.
Not only for space tourism but being equipped with additional research areas will certainly help scientists to explore new sections of space science. Lately, we have heard of NASA growing a number of plants and vegetables in ISS as a part of their plant experiment, Plant Habitat-02. So, even though we don’t know what is there in store for us in the future, we can totally expect interesting things to unravel in the near future.