Axiom Space has opened the doors for private astronauts to join a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) forecast for potentially the second half of 2021. The 10+ day mission has an astronomical price tag to go with it: US$55 million, and one seat has reportedly already been sold.
The company announced this month that it had inked a deal with Elon Musk’s SpaceX for a “Crew Dragon flight” that will transport a commander alongside three very wealthy civilian astronauts who will live aboard the ISS and experience at least eight days in orbit – two days in transit and eight in the station.
Co-Founder and CEO of the Houston, Texas based company is Michael Suffredini who served as NASA’s International Space Station Program Manager from 2005 to 2015 and oversaw the station’s transition from assembly to operation and commercial utilisation.
“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” Suffredini said. “This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space – a first for a commercial entity. Procuring the transportation marks significant progress toward that goal, and we’re glad to be working with SpaceX in this effort.”
This is the first of Axiom’s proposed “precursor missions” to the ISS envisioned under its 2016 Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA. Discussions with NASA are underway to establish additional enabling agreements for the private astronaut missions to ISS.
Axiom plans to offer professional and private astronaut flights to ISS at a rate of up to two per year to align with flight opportunities as they are made available by NASA, while simultaneously constructing its own privately funded space station.
“Since 2012, SpaceX has been delivering cargo to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA and later this year, we will fly NASA astronauts for the first time,” said SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell. “Now, thanks to Axiom and their support from NASA, privately crewed missions will have unprecedented access to the space station, furthering the commercialisation of space and helping usher in a new era of human exploration.”
Axiom’s turnkey service for the mission includes training, mission planning, hardware development, life support, medical support, crew provisions, hardware and safety certifications, on-orbit operations and overall mission management.
NASA has selected Axiom’s proposal to attach its space station modules to the ISS beginning in the second half of 2024, ultimately creating a new ‘Axiom Segment’ that will expand the station’s usable and habitable volume. When the ISS reaches its retirement date, the Axiom complex will detach and operate as a free-flying commercial space station.
More at axiomspace.com/