Houston company tapped by NASA to build first private space station, attaching to ISS

Station will live on after ISS retires

ORLANDO, Fla. – NASA has selected Axiom Space, a private company based in Houston, to build the first stages of a private space station that will operate long after the International Space Station is retired.

NASA announced Monday that Axiom Space was awarded access to the International Space Station’s Node 2 Forward port to begin building its commercial space station that could ultimately replace the ISS.

Axiom Space officials say they plan to launch a module connecting to the port, then a research and manufacturing facility, as well as a crew habitat and an Earth observatory with large windows. The whole structure will form the “Axiom Segment” of the current ISS.

The company is partnering with Boeing, Thales Alenia Space Italy, Intuitive Machines and Maxar Technologies on the project.

The first module will launch in the second half of 2024, according to Axiom.

The video below from Axiom shows what the assembly process could look like.

The Axiom Segment will rely on the ISS for power and cooling but prior to the retirement of the space station, possibly as late as 2028, the Axiom will launch its own power platform.

When the ISS is decommissioned, the Axiom Segment will detach and continue on as a private space station circling the Earth.

The move is part of NASA’s plan to commercialize low-Earth orbit, partnering with private companies to allow more access to the ISS, including to private astronauts.

“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,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration.”

The company says the private station will cost a fraction of the ISS, which cost approximately $150 billion to build the football-field length orbiting station.

Axiom Space was co-founded in 2016 by former NASA ISS program manager Michael Sufferedini and space entrepreneur Dr. Kam Ghaffarian.

“A commercial platform in Earth orbit is an opportunity to mark a shift in our society similar to that which astronauts undergo when they see the planet from above,” Ghaffarian, Axiom’s executive chairman, said. “Our goal is to advance the state of humanity and human knowledge. I am glad to see the Axiom team, with its advanced human spaceflight, engineering, and operations expertise, recognized for its potential to do just that and build off of ISS.”

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