A start-up aims to add new construction to the International Space Station to prep for a private sector orbital outpost
Michael Suffredini has big business plans for low Earth orbit. After a decade as NASA’s program manager for the International Space Station (ISS) he retired from the agency in September 2015 to pursue opportunities in the private sector, convinced that a golden age of commercial spaceflight was dawning. Partnering with Kam Ghaffarian, CEO of SGT, the company that operates the ISS for NASA and also trains America’s astronauts, Suffredini co-founded Axiom Space in early 2016.
As Axiom’s president, Suffredini’s goal is simple: to build and fly the world’s first private space station, using the ISS as a springboard. The company is in talks with NASA to install a new commercial module on the ISS’s sole available unused docking port as early as 2020 or 2021, and is presently planning the module’s construction and flight with aerospace manufacturers and launch providers. Axiom’s module would be the foundation for a full-blown private space station that would debut after the ISS’s retirement, which is tentatively slated for 2024. Detached before the ISS is deorbited to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, Axiom’s module would remain in orbit to serve as the private station’s first section.