Capitalism in space: Axiom has hired the European company Thales Alenia, to build the habitation module of its commercial space station that will initially attach to ISS.
Axiom’s station modules will form a new section of ISS that will be able to operate independently, so that when ISS is decommissioned it can detach and remain operational in space.
That Axiom did not choose either Boeing (which I think built most of NASA’s ISS modules) or Northrop Grumman (which has been pushing an upgraded version of its Cygnus capsule as future station modules) is intriguing. I suspect with Boeing cost was the major reason, as Boeing’s modules are generally far too expensive. There also might be questions about that company’s quality control.
Why Northrop Grumman lost out however is
unclear. Its Cygnus design is relatively inexpensive, and has clearly demonstrated that it works very reliably. obvious. Thales Alenia makes that Cygnus module for Northrop Grumman, so why buy it from the U.S. company when you can get it from the builder. (Thanks to reader Doug Booker for pointing out this obvious fact, one I had forgotten.)
Either way, this contract award gets us one step closer to truly private operations in space. Eventually competing private stations such as Axiom’s will replace government stations like ISS. That will in turn certainly lower costs and and increase innovation, which in turn will accelerate the development of the engineering required to build practical interplanetary spaceships.
This of course assumes we remain a free nation. Right now I have strong doubts.
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