Axiom Space, a Houston-based company founded in 2016, is making significant strides in the realm of low Earth orbit (LEO) with a vision to establish its own space station. The company has already achieved noteworthy milestones, including the first-ever private citizen flight to the International Space Station (ISS) through its Ax-1 mission in April 2021. Following the success of Ax-2, the company’s second flight, which concluded in late May, Axiom Space is gearing up for Ax-3 scheduled for November. These missions have not only facilitated groundbreaking scientific experiments but have also played a pivotal role in shaping Axiom’s future space station design and operations.
In January 2020, Axiom won a contract from NASA to construct the initial commercially manufactured module for the ISS. Previously targeting completion in 2024, Axiom’s senior director of in-space solutions, David Zuniga, revealed that the first module is now set for deployment in 2026. This module will be connected to the forward port of the ISS’ Harmony module, serving as the foundation for subsequent components in Axiom’s planned space station architecture. Following this, the company plans to attach a second module in 2027, a third module in 2028, and a thermal power module before 2030. This critical addition will enable Axiom’s space station to detach from the ISS, transforming it into an independent, commercially operated LEO destination.
Simultaneously, Axiom is leveraging the valuable data obtained from its manned missions to the ISS to inform the development and functionality of its future space station modules. Tejpaul Bhatia, Axiom’s chief revenue officer, emphasized the significance of these precursor missions as learning opportunities to enhance the company’s expertise in human spaceflight. They also serve to refine Axiom’s astronaut training programs while fine-tuning their approach to low Earth orbit economy.
One notable research project, the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) Essential Measures investigation, was conducted during the Ax-2 mission. This study involved a checklist of tests performed by the crew upon reaching orbit, utilizing physical evaluations, biological sampling, and wearable devices to assess their response and adaptation to microgravity. As Axiom’s crewmembers often lack the extensive training received by NASA astronauts, such investigations help the company better acclimate future crews to the microgravity environment and develop strategies to expedite their adjustment process.
Axiom’s primary objective is to optimize the value provided to its passengers through its space station. The initial crewed missions to the ISS play a crucial role in identifying the areas where this value lies. Zuniga explained that these missions aim to determine whether microgravity research or space manufacturing, among other possibilities, will take precedence. By tailoring their space station to meet the needs of future crews, Axiom aims to create an environment that maximizes the benefits and experiences for all on board.
Moreover, Axiom recognizes the importance of learning from NASA’s expertise in building space stations. The company has assembled a knowledgeable team experienced in human spaceflight and is collaborating closely with NASA to adhere to current ISS requirements. This partnership ensures that Axiom’s space station not only meets today’s standards but also anticipates future needs, reflecting the company’s commitment to facilitating private space travel.
As Axiom Space continues to push boundaries and break new ground, its comprehensive approach to space station design and operations positions it as a frontrunner in the burgeoning field of low Earth orbit. By leveraging valuable data, collaborating with industry experts, and keeping an eye on future possibilities, Axiom is poised to reshape the landscape of human space exploration and create unprecedented opportunities for commercial space travel.
By Impact Lab