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Axiom Space, Inc., also known as Axiom, is an American privately funded space infrastructure developer headquartered in Houston, Texas. Founded in 2016 by Michael T. Suffredini and Kam Ghaffarian, the company is planning commercial missions in 2022 to the International Space Station (ISS) and aims to own and operate the world's first commercial space station. The company's leadership team is largely composed of former NASA employees, including former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Other key people at the company include astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Brent W. Jett Jr.
The company's planned commercial activities include human spaceflight for space tourists, as well as government-funded and commercial astronauts engaging in in-space research, in-space manufacturing, and space exploration.
Axiom Space CEO Michael T. Suffredini was previously the program manager for the International Space Station from 2005 to 2015. After retiring from NASA, Suffredini and Kam Ghaffarian started Axiom to target the emerging commercial spaceflight market. Ghaffarian is an engineer and entrepreneur who sold his company, Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, Inc., a large NASA contractor, to KBR in 2018.
The company was selected by NASA to provide the first commercial destination module on the International Space Station. Axiom also announced[when?] a contract with SpaceX to fly commercial astronauts to the International Space Station via Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon scheduled for January 2022.
NASA contract for ISS modules
In 2020, as part of the broader Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) cislunar initiative, NASA awarded Axiom a US$140 million contract to provide at least one habitable spacecraft to attach to the International Space Station. Axiom was the only selected proposal from the solicitation process due in 2019. Bigelow Aerospace did not submit a proposal and has subsequently ceased operations.
The modules constructed by Axiom are designed to attach to the Harmony forward port with the intent to demonstrate an ability to commercially provide services and products in the low Earth orbit economy. The "Axiom Segment" of the station was planned, as of January 2020[update], to include a node module to act as a connector, a research and manufacturing facility, a crew habitat, and a "large-windowed" module for viewing the Earth.
Axiom Station intends to have its spacecraft modules individually launched and assembled in-orbit, first attaching to the International Space Station. Before ISS retirement (and atmospheric reentry), the company plans to detach its modules and commence orbit on its own as Axiom Station. Axiom renderings from 2020 illustrate how modules might attach to the ISS and be relocated by the Mobile Servicing System, specifically the Canadarm2. The company targets the mid-2020s for its first module to attach to the ISS and the late-2020s for station completion.
Upon the retirement of ISS, Axiom has said in 2020 that they would hope to separate Axiom Station from the ISS and add a power and thermal module with an airlock. Axiom plans to conduct astronaut training for commercial astronauts, to host governments and commercial partners, as well as private astronauts. Up to three Axiom modules could attach to the International Space Station. The first module could be launched as soon as 2024, potentially docking to the forward port of Harmony, which would require relocation of the PMA-2. Axiom Space plans to attach up to two additional modules to its initial core module, and send private astronauts to visit the modules.
The interior for Axiom Station was designed in 2018 by French architect Philippe Starck. Renderings of the habitat show a chamber with walls that are covered with tufted padding and studded with hundreds of color-changing LEDs. Axiom has publicly stated an intent to maintain at least one astronaut in the station continuously,[when?] who will be assigned to take care of research projects and station repairs. The includes amenities like high-speed Wi-Fi, video screens, picture windows, and a glass-walled cupola.
Axiom plans to provide human spaceflight services to individuals, corporations, and space agencies. Missions to the International Space Station are offered by Axiom, with a 10-day mission including 15 weeks of training. In addition to training, Axiom states that the package will include mission planning, hardware development, life support, medical support, crew provisions, hardware and safety certifications, on-orbit operations, and mission management. Missions could extend for longer periods of time depending on the focus of the spaceflight.
In June 2020, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine mentioned on a podcast that Axiom was involved with the filming of a Tom Cruise movie to the ISS with SpaceX expected to be the transportation partner for the flights.
In-space research and manufacturing
Ax-2 is a planned Crew Dragon commercial mission to the ISS. The flight is slated to launch in fall 2022 and send four people to the ISS. One crew member is to be chosen through the Discovery Channel reality television series Who Wants to Be an Astronaut. On 25 May 2021, it was announced that former NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson would be the mission commander and John Shoffner would be the mission pilot.
Ax-4 is a planned Crew Dragon commercial mission to the ISS. The flight will launch no earlier than 2023 and carry four people to the ISS, including the winner of the Space Hero reality television show.
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