Private company to build its own ISS airlock


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Capitalism in space: The private company NanoRacks has raised the funds necessary to build its own ISS airlock and install it in 2019.

“The reason we want our own airlock is this airlock is going to be five times bigger than the current airlock, and it’s going to be far more commercial,” Manber said in a Sept. 27 presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. In addition to satellite deployments and experiments, he said the module will be commercial “real estate” on the station, with the ability to mount payloads on its exterior. “It’s getting us more into the real estate business and space station operations,” he said.

Manber said the module was on track to launch in 2019, carried to the station in the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft. A formal manifesting of the payload on a resupply flight is now being finalized, he said, while the airlock itself is being manufactured.

What this suggests to me is that ISS might not go away in 2024, but instead slowly shift to private ownership and operation, all for profit. This deal appears to lay the groundwork for this shift.

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4 comments

  • LocalFluff

    Axiom Space is building a private module to dock with the ISS. It will be followed by more modules until it can disconnect as a separate space station. They seem to be well financed and led by former ISS managers and astronauts. They have a low profile online, Google didn’t even find their website, I went through their Twitter to find it. Because they are more professional than enthusiastic and don’t need any crowdfunding or public following. Space business run as an ordinary company, it seems to me.
    https://www.axiomspace.com/

    2019 First Axiom crew to the ISS.
    2021-2022 Launch of the first Axiom space station module.

    The Deep Space Gateway could never compete with a space station in LEO for any commercial uses. Too high costs, too risky, too little productive time (95% less astronaut-space-days a year than the ISS) and not any benefits at all in return. If the DSG becomes real, then Axiom will likely dominate all human space flight worldwide. An early lead they might never want to give up.

  • wodun

    Could someone chime in with how many nodes are available for these things? Nanoracks, Bigelow, Axiom, and also others all want a spot. Is there enough to go around?

    How does the Nanoracks airlock compare in size to the larger one that will be used by NASA?

  • LocalFluff

    @wodun
    Here’s some discussion of it, although 4 years old.
    https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/2245/will-the-iss-need-more-docking-ports

  • Edward

    wodun asked: “Could someone chime in with how many nodes are available for these things? Nanoracks, Bigelow, Axiom, and also others all want a spot. Is there enough to go around?

    The idea of the Nanoracks airlock is to launch cubesats, not to dock with additional spacecraft or add more modules.

    From the article: “NanoRacks signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA in 2016 to develop the airlock, which will handle satellite deployments and other experiments that today use the airlock in the Kibo module.

    As for Bigelow and Axiom (a group comprised of NanoRacks, Space Systems/Loral, and United Launch Alliance), there is also a company, Ixion, working on space habitats. With three companies in competition, we should get some low-cost commercial space stations in the coming decade.

    Bigelow currently has a test module, “BEAM,” on ISS, but its attachment is subject to end a few years from now.
    http://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/nasa-to-extend-use-of-private-module-on-iss/

    There are not enough ports to go around. There may only be the port that BEAM is currently attached to. The article linked in the following BTB post shows us that the port that Bigelow is currently using will some day be available for another demonstration module, possibly from one of the three companies:
    http://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/bigelow-proposes-extending-life-of-its-iss-module-beyond-its-two-year-demo/
    NASA has identified the ISS port currently used by BEAM as a location that could eventually host larger commercial modules, intended as a stepping-stone to full-fledged commercial space stations. NASA issued a request for information (RFI) last July that several companies, including Bigelow Aerospace, responded to regarding use of that port and other station resources to host a commercial module.

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