Axiom Space revealed Wednesday that it has finalized a deal with SpaceX for three additional Dragon flights, on which Axiom would fly its proposed private crews on its next three fully commercial missions to the International Space Station. The landmark agreement between the industry leaders in human spaceflight as well as orbital services and launch, respectively, ensures the nascent commercial human spaceflight market’s growth will subsist.
“We are beyond excited to build upon our partnership with Axiom to help make human spaceflight more accessible for more people,” said SpaceX President & COO Gwynne Shotwell. “A new era in human spaceflight is here.”
Developed by SpaceX as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, the Dragon spacecraft has already flown three successful human spaceflight missions to the ISS. Those flights – Demo-2, Crew-1, and Crew-2 – were NASA missions carrying government astronauts from the ISS partner agencies.
In a validation of NASA’s strategy to support commercial development of human spaceflight capability in hopes of fostering a marketplace, Axiom’s planned missions would mark the first private crews to make the same trip.
“Axiom was founded on a vision of lasting commercial development of space,” Axiom President & CEO Michael Suffredini said. “We are on track to enable that future by managing the first-ever private missions to the ISS as a precursor to our development of the world’s first commercial space station. SpaceX has blazed the trail with reliable, commercial human launch capability and we are thrilled to partner with them on a truly historic moment.”
Ax-1, Axiom’s historic first private ISS mission, has already been approved by NASA and targeted for launch to the ISS no earlier than Jan. 2022, also aboard Dragon as a result of a deal the companies signed in March 2020. Axiom last week revealed legendary astronaut Peggy Whitson and champion GT racer John Shoffner would serve as commander and pilot on its proposed Ax-2 mission – now confirmed to be a Dragon flight.
So, too, are Ax-3 and Ax-4.
Axiom previously entered into a broad agreement with NASA enabling it to fly private astronaut missions to the space station and will compete to fly each as the agency opens opportunities. All-inclusive Axiom missions include training, provisions, and operational management, are commanded by experienced astronauts, and are built around the crew’s preferred scientific research and educational programs.
Axiom’s “precursor missions” prepare the way for the launch and integration to the ISS Harmony node of the Axiom Station modules beginning in 2024. By 2028, Axiom Station will be ready to detach and operate as the ISS’ privately owned successor, forming the core layer of infrastructure in orbit for years to come.
The growing partnership between Axiom and SpaceX thus lays the groundwork for a long-term destination for Dragon, more humans in space, and a burgeoning economy in low-Earth orbit – realizing a dream long-held by advocates of commercial space.