How much would you pay for a 10-day stay in low Earth orbit? Houston-based Axiom Space has set a $55 million price point for trips that it says could begin as early as 2020.
If you want to fly that soon, Axiom Space is offering accommodations on the International Space Station. But the company, headed by a former NASA space station program manager, says it’ll eventually have its own place in space.
“It is an honor to continue the work that NASA and its partners have begun, to bring awareness to the profound benefits of human space exploration and to involve more countries and private citizens in these endeavors,” Axiom Space CEO and President Michael Suffredini said today in a news release.
The plan calls for Axiom Space’s orbital complex to be assembled while connected to the International Space Station, and to separate when the international station is retired.
Axiom’s timeline has some flex, because it’s not yet clear how long the larger station will keep going, or what the assembly schedule will be for the company’s custom-built habitation module. But a weekend feature about the project in The New York Times cited 2022 as the supposed opening date.
In addition to the 10-day orbital stay, the $55 million would cover a 15-week training experience on Earth. Axiom is targeting space tourists as well as researchers and entrepreneurs who want to develop in-space manufacturing facilities.
Is this doable? Axiom isn’t yet laying out the complete logistical details, but the company will almost certainly rely on the likes of SpaceX and Boeing, which are developing space taxis for NASA’s use. Once those spaceships go into operation, sometime in the 2018-2019 period, there’s likely to be excess transportation capacity that Axiom could buy into.
It’ll take millions of dollars more to build Axiom’s orbital facility, which would include crew quarters, a dining area and a galley. Famed French designer Philippe Starck has already come up with the floor plan.
“This is a dream project for a creator like me with a genuine fascination for aviation and space exploration,” Starck said in a statement. “The greatest human intelligence in the world focuses on space research. My vision for the Habitation Module on Axiom Station is to create a comfortable egg that is inviting with soft walls and a design perfectly in harmony with the values and movements of the human body in zero gravity.”
In addition to Suffredini, who served as NASA’s space program manager from 2005 to 2015, Axiom’s executive ranks include several NASA veterans, including former astronauts Brent Jett and Michael Lopez-Alegria.
There could be competition for orbital travelers from other private ventures: NanoRacks has laid out a roadmap for creating orbital outposts from recycled rocket upper stages. Orion Span has its own plan to send a hotel habitat into orbit by as early as 2022. And Bigelow Aerospace, which already has two uncrewed modules in orbit, has created a separate company to operate expandable space stations.