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Axiom hires European company to help build private ISS module

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.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

9 comments

  • Doug Booker

    Uh, the Cygnus portion that transports cargo is made by Thales-Alenia. So why buy it from NG instead of the source?

  • Doug Booker: Duh, you are right. I had forgotten that Orbital Sciences had farmed out its work to other subcontractors, many in Europe.

  • geoffc

    The MPLM’s and I THINK most of the strcuture of the ISS modules on the US side were made by Thales-Alenia as well.

    Ok, looked it up. Node 1 – Unity – Boeing
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unity_(ISS_module)

    Node 2 – Harmony – Thales alenia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmony_(ISS_module)

    Node 3 – Tranquility – Thales Alenia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tranquility_(ISS_module)

    US Lab – Destiny – Boeing
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destiny_(ISS_module)

    So mixed bag.

    MPLM is also Thales Alenia (berthed at node 3 forward i think)

    Cupula – Thales Alenia.

    But functionally a distinction without a difference really.

  • Matthew Straney

    The inflatable habitat company I forget which. I liked that idea because I thought it could provide the cheapest real estate in low earth orbit the quickest.

    Robert you wrote awhile ago the starship prototypes better stop blowing up or it’ll look bad. As a product people are going to have alot of bad memories of it blowing up as a product and theres a subliminal mindset that may lead them to think starships are nothing balloons ready to burst they’re that near the brink of perishing. A new metal that only leaks would be great though not sure if can ever be guaranteed by design. They’ve got plenty of lift capacity would adding more mass in the design ensure greater stability

  • Matthew Straney: You are thinking of Bigelow, which has successfully launched two inflatable test modules as well as a working test module, dubbed BEAM, to ISS.

    I’m not sure what the status of Bigelow is right now. It seems others, such as Axiom, have overtaken them.

  • David

    Bigelow laid off the entirety of their payroll not long ago. But they still have projects that were in progress that they haven’t sent any kind of notice out that “no, we’re not going to deliver this” on. So while the company is not officially dead, it seems fair to say that the body is lying on the floor not breathing and there aren’t any doctors doing anything about it.

  • A. Nonymous

    Who holds the patents on inflatables? Were they sold, or licensed exclusively? When do they expire?

    Of course, the big advantage of inflatables is to provide more living space for less launcher mass/volume. Will Starship make this issue moot?

  • There is no patent on inflatable space modules. It is in the public domain. The concept was first developed by NASA, and as standard policy all such concepts are released for all to use.

  • pzatchok

    Bigelow has a patent on how they fold the sides in to compress and fit the module into a smaller space.

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