Axiom Space, Inc.
Company typePrivate incorporated company
IndustryAerospace
Founded2016; 8 years ago (2016)
FounderMichael T. Suffredini
Kam Ghaffarian[1]
Headquarters
Houston, Texas
United States
Key people
Services
Number of employees
790 (2023)
Websiteaxiomspace.com
Footnotes / references
[2]

Axiom Space, Inc., also known as Axiom Space, is an American privately funded space infrastructure developer headquartered in Houston, Texas.

Founded in 2016 by Michael T. Suffredini and Kam Ghaffarian, the company first flew a spaceflight in 2022: Axiom Mission 1, the first commercially crewed private spaceflight to the International Space Station. The company aims to own and operate the world's first commercial space station in the late 2020s.[3][4] The company's employees include former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden[5] and astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria, Peggy Whitson, Brent W. Jett Jr and Koichi Wakata.[6]

The company sent its first commercial astronauts into orbit in 2022. It also plans human spaceflight for government-funded and commercial astronauts engaging in in-space research, in-space manufacturing, and space exploration.[7]

History

Michael Suffredini in 2012

Axiom Space CEO Michael T. Suffredini was previously the program manager for the International Space Station from 2005 to 2015.[8] After retiring from NASA, Suffredini and Kam Ghaffarian started Axiom Space 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.[9] Ghaffarian is also the Executive Chairman of Quantum Space.

The company was selected by NASA to provide the first commercial destination module on the International Space Station.[10] Axiom Space also announced in March 2020 a contract with SpaceX to fly commercial astronauts to the International Space Station via Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon scheduled for March 2022; the launch took place on 8 April 2022[11] and the crew returned on 25 April.[12]

The company had 110 employees as of February 2021,[13] with offices located in Houston and Los Angeles.[citation needed]

NASA contract for ISS modules

Artist's rendering of Axiom modules connected to ISS

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.[10] Axiom Space was the only selected proposal from the solicitation process due in 2019.[14] Bigelow Aerospace did not submit a proposal and has subsequently ceased operations.[15]

The modules constructed by Axiom Space 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, 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.[16]

Axiom Station

See also: Axiom Orbital Segment

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.[17][18] Axiom Space renderings from 2020 illustrate how modules might be berthed and relocated on the ISS by the Mobile Servicing System, specifically the Canadarm2. Canadarm2 might also continue its operations on the Axiom Space Station after the retirement of the ISS in the late 2020s.[19][20] The company is currently targeting late 2026 for the launch of its first module to the ISS and the late-2020s for station completion.[21][3]

Axiom Space plans to conduct astronaut training for commercial astronauts, to host governments and commercial partners. Up to three Axiom Space modules could attach to the International Space Station. The first module is expected to dock 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.[1]

The Future Axiom Earth Observatory interior (Artist's illustration of the model designed by Philippe Starck)

The interior of 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 colour-changing LEDs.[22] Axiom Space 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.[23] This includes amenities like high-speed Wi-Fi, video screens, picture windows, and a glass-walled cupola.[24]

Human spaceflight

Axiom Space provides human spaceflight services to people, corporations, and space agencies. Missions to the International Space Station are offered by Axiom Space, with a 10-day mission including 15 weeks of training.[25] In addition to training, Axiom Space states that the packages include mission planning, hardware development, life support, medical support, crew provisions, hardware and safety certifications, on-orbit operations, and mission management.[26] Missions could extend for longer periods depending on the focus of the spaceflight. Former NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Michael López-Alegría are employees and serve as commanders of missions.[27][28]

In June 2020, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said NASA was involved with the filming of a Tom Cruise movie to the ISS [29] with SpaceX expected to be the transportation partner for the flights.[30]

In-space research and manufacturing

Crystals grown in microgravity

Axiom Space intends to commercialize microgravity research and development, using the ISS National Lab until its modules are operational.[citation needed]

Missions

In early June 2021, Axiom Space announced a deal with SpaceX which added three additional crewed flights to the ISS, for a total of four.[31]

Axiom Mission 1 at LC-39A undergoing pre-launch preparations

Ax-1

Axiom Mission 1 (or Ax-1)[32] was a privately funded and operated crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission was operated by Axiom Space out of Axiom's Mission Control Center MCC-A[33] in Houston, Texas. The flight launched on 8 April 2022 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.[34] The spacecraft used was a SpaceX Crew Dragon. The crew consisted of Michael López-Alegría,[35] an American born in Spain and a professionally trained astronaut hired by Axiom, Eytan Stibbe[36] from Israel,[37] Larry Connor from the United States,[37] and Mark Pathy from Canada.[37]

Ax-2

Main article: Axiom Mission 2

Ax-2 was a private crew mission to the ISS. The flight launched on 21 May 2023 and sent four people to the ISS.[38] On 25 May 2021, Axiom Space announced that former NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson would be the mission commander and John Shoffner would be the mission pilot.[39] Two astronauts from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ali Alqarni[40][41] and Rayyanah Barnawi[42][43] were also on board as mission specialists.

Ax-3

Main article: Axiom Mission 3

Ax-3 was a private crew mission to the ISS. The flight launched on 18 January 2024 and sent four people to the ISS. NASA Astronaut Michael López-Alegría was the mission commander and Walter Villadei was the mission pilot. Two astronauts from Turkey and Sweden, Alper Gezeravcı and Marcus Wandt were also on board as mission specialists.

Ax-4

Main article: Axiom Mission 4

Ax-4 is a planned private crew mission to the ISS. The flight will launch no earlier than October 2024 and carry four people to the ISS,[44] including veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson. The crew is expected to include a Polish, a Hungarian and an Indian astronaut.[45][failed verification]

Axiom Mission Control Center

In January 2022, the Axiom Space Mission Control Center (or MCC-A) completed its first on-orbit science payload operation on the ISS. At this time, MCC-A, located at Axiom's HQ in Houston, TX, was registered as a payload operations site. In April 2022, MCC-A supported a record number of on-orbit science payload operations and live on-orbit events for Axiom's Ax-1 mission to ISS, which was the first all-private mission to the ISS. In late 2022, Axiom's MCC-A became a certified ISS partner Mission Control Center, connected to NASA's ISS program, joining a small handful of International partner MCCs and SpaceX's MCC. In May 2023, Axiom Space flew their second mission to ISS, Ax-2, supported entirely out of MCC-A by an Axiom Space flight control team of 6-10 flight controllers. [46]

Flights

Mission Launch date (UTC) Landing date (UTC) Crew Duration Vehicle Remarks Outcome
Axiom Mission 1 8 April 2022[47] 25 April 2022 17 days Crew Dragon Endeavour[48] First Crew Dragon flight contracted by Axiom Space. First fully private flight to the ISS, carrying Michael López-Alegría as Axiom professional astronaut,[49] Eytan Stibbe to conduct educational experiments for a 17-day trip,[50][51] Larry Connor and Mark Pathy, both heading investment companies.[49] Success
Axiom Mission 2 21 May 2023[52] 31 May 2023 10 days Crew Dragon Freedom Second Crew Dragon flight contracted by Axiom Space.[54] Second fully private flight to the ISS, carrying Peggy Whitson as Axiom professional astronaut. Success
Axiom Mission 3 18 January 2024[55] 9 February 2024 21 days Crew Dragon Freedom Third Crew Dragon flight contracted by Axiom Space, astronauts are three military pilots whose flight is financed by their respective nations (Italy, Turkey and Sweden). Success
Axiom Mission 4 NET October 2024[56][57] United States Peggy Whitson[58]
TBA
TBA
TBA
14-21 days[59] Crew Dragon Planned

Space suit

Future NASA contracted suits

On 1 June 2022, NASA announced it had selected Axiom Space along with competing Collins Aerospace to develop and provide astronauts with next generation spacesuit and spacewalk systems to first test and later use outside the International Space Station, as well as on the lunar surface for the crewed Artemis missions, and prepare for human missions to Mars.[60][61]

See also

References

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