NASA now has official plans to add a combination orbital co-working space and microgravity retreat to the International Space Station.
The space agency said Monday that it's selected Houston company Axiom Space to provide the first habitable commercial modules to be attached to the ISS.
In recent years,and what it calls the "low-Earth orbit economy."
"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 in a release.
As such, NASA and other government space agencies are likely to be among Axiom's first customers. The company is run by former ISS manager Michael Suffredini. It'll provide at least one element that'll attach to the forward port of the space station's Node 2, which has been used as a utility hub and sleeping quarters for astronauts.
Axiom's plan is to offer a new commercial gateway to space, allowing researchers, manufacturers and wealthy tourists, among others, the opportunity to visit orbit for work or pleasure. While its ambitions begin with sending people to the ISS and its own attached modules, the long-term goal is for those modules to eventually detach and become part of the company's private stand-alone (or is it orbit-alone?) space station.
"We are just beginning to realize the fruits of years of [low-Earth orbit] research and now can conceptualize the possibilities microgravity manufacturing has to offer, such as superior pharmaceuticals, 3D-printed human organs, high-performance fiber-optic cables and superalloys," Suffredini wrote in an article for Elite Traveler last month.
In addition to having Suffredini at its helm, Axiom also counts former astronaut and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden among its hires, according to a company newsletter.
The timeline for installation of the new commercial space in space isn't yet clear, but Axiom has said it'd like to start sending clients to the ISS as soon as 2021.