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As NASA continues working towards opening up the International Space Station (ISS) for commercial use, the agency has now decided who will provide the station's first commercial destination module.
Houston-based Axiom Space won NASA's NextSTEP-2 Appendix solicitation, which grants the company access to the ISS' Node 2 Forward port for the module.
The news was shared online by NASA and Axiom Space on Monday.
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A significant step towards Space commercialization
This announcement is a big step towards developing independent commercial destinations that work with NASA's long-term needs for low-Earth orbit exploration.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said "Today’s announcement is an exciting and welcome step forward in the efforts to commercialize low-Earth orbit."
Sen. Cruz continued "This partnership between NASA and Axiom Space – a Houston, Texas original – illustrates how critically important the International Space Station is, and will continue to be, for developing new technologies for low-Earth orbit and beyond, and for continuing America’s leadership in space."
The next steps are for NASA and Axiom Space to negotiate the terms and the cost of a firm-fixed-price contract.
Axiom, together with @NASA and our partners, will build on the foundation of ISS to create a commercial future in LEO.https://t.co/l6zHV9iMKv— Axiom Space (@Axiom_Space) January 27, 2020
How will the module function?
Axiom Space's module will attach itself to the ISS' Node 2 forward port. The aim is for it to provide products and services while starting the transition to a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy. NASA will be one of its main customers.
A big step forward in opening the @Space_Station to commercial opportunities: a new element for the station will be developed and built by a company based in Texas. We've selected @Axiom_Space of Houston to provide at least one habitable commercial module: https://t.co/6owTqEXcbCpic.twitter.com/fanG2jNwrm— NASA (@NASA) January 27, 2020
NASA's plan to open the ISS to new commercial and marketing opportunities includes five elements. One of these elements is the development of commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit, and this is where Axiom Space comes in with their module.
NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said "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."
Open for business! @Axiom_Space of Houston has been selected to provide a habitable commercial module for the @Space_Station. An exciting development in the effort to create a robust low-Earth orbit economy. More: https://t.co/kJdasSjGWX— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) January 27, 2020
Bridenstine continued, "We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration. It is a similar partnership that this year will return the capability of American astronauts to launch to the space station on American rockets from American soil."