NASA has chosen Axiom Space to set up at least one habitable commercial module that will be attached to the International Space Station (ISS), it said in a statement. The module will be the first commercial destination for future commercial spaceflight missions. It will attach to ISS Node 2 forward port. The module is expected to house experiments and technology developments for the space scientists. NASA is aiming to enable the development of independent commercial destinations in space that can meet its needs in the low-Earth orbit (LEO).
“The element will attach to the space station's Node 2 forward port to demonstrate its ability to provide products and services and begin the transition to a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy in which NASA is one of many customers,” said the US space agency.
NASA has said that developing a commercial destination in LEO is one of the five parts of its plans to open the ISS to new commercial and marketing opportunities. Its plan also includes efforts to make ISS and its crew resources available for commercial use, enable private astronaut missions to the ISS, and stimulate long term demand for these services.
“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,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
NASA will continue to need LEO microgravity research to make its upcoming Moon and Mars missions possible. Soon, NASA and Axiom will begin negotiations on the terms and price of the contract with a five-year base performance period and a two-year option.
Axiom Space is led by Michael Suffredini, its President and CEO, who has served as NASA's program manager from 2005 to 2015. According to its website, Axiom's team has expertise in commercial utilisation of microgravity, on-orbit operations, astronaut training, space financing, engineering, space system architecture/design/development, and space medicine.