Featured Image Source: NASA / SpaceX
Axiom Space Inc. is a Houston, Texas start-up, founded by Michael Suffredini who served as NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) Program Manager from 2005 to 2015. He was responsible for overseeing ISS transition from assembly to the initiation of commercial operations. Axiom is mostly staffed by NASA ex-employees, including former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. – “The leadership team also includes world-class, specialized expertise in commercial utilization of microgravity, on-orbit operations, astronaut training, space financing, engineering, space system architecture/design/development, space medicine, marketing, and law,” the company states. Together, they are all working towards the commercialization of space.
Axiom aims to build a space station in low Earth orbit to continue operations once NASA retires the ISS program and moves beyond the orbiting laboratory to focus operations on the lunar surface. The company also offers spaceflights for regular civilians to experience microgravity and amazing views of Earth from ISS. “While making access to Low Earth Orbit global during the remainder of ISS’ lifetime, Axiom is constructing the future platform that will serve as humanity’s permanently growing home, scientific and industrial complex in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) – the cornerstone of human activity in space,” company states on its website.
Early this year, Axiom announced it contracted SpaceX’s launch services to launch four passengers aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a voyage to the Space Station. The announcement did not include who the civilian passengers would be, only stated they would be accompanied by a professionally trained astronaut whose name was not released.
This week, Suffredini told Aviation Week reporters former NASA Astronaut ISS Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria is heading back to orbit as personnel for Axiom’s civilian space tour that is scheduled for October 2021. He, alongside three civilians, will ride Crew Dragon and embark on a 10-day space journey. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will propel Dragon to orbit towards the Space Station where they will stay for 8 days.
Lopez-Alegria was a Naval Aviator, he served as commander for three missions in his career. With NASA, he is a veteran of four space flights, spent a total of 257 days in space, and performed 10 spacewalks, totaling 67 hours and 40 minutes of Extravehicular Activity work outside the station. He retired from the Navy in June 2008 and left NASA in March 2012. With Axiom, Lopez-Alegria will serve as Commander once again. He will be responsible for operating the Crew Dragon spacecraft and ensuring all crew is safe.
Today in 2006 I said goodbye to friends and family for my final trip to the space station. Tell me @AstroBehnken & @Astro_Doug – are the new @SpaceX launch suits more comfortable🤞? pic.twitter.com/rDcHrIw9lA— Michael L-A (@CommanderMLA) September 18, 2020
“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” Suffredini said in a press release. “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.”
Axiom says the spaceflight will also include “training, mission planning, hardware development, life support, medical support, crew provisions, hardware and safety certifications, on-orbit operations and overall mission management.”