Scroll down to read this post.


My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Axiom raises $130 million in investment capital

Capitalism in space: The private space station company Axiom announced today that it has obtained $130 million in investment capital during its most recent round of fund-raising.

The funding will allow the company to expand, including doubling its current workforce of about 110 people this year, Michael Suffredini, president and chief executive of Axiom, said in an interview. It will also support quarterly payments to Thales Alenia Space, which is building the pressurized elements of the first modules. The company recently moved into a two-story building in Houston and is buying a new test facility, with plans to establish a campus at Spaceport Houston, also known as Ellington Airport.

“This is a really the major step for us,” he said. “The B round is typically where you get your first large investment, but more importantly than the money is the community of investors that you put together, so that future rounds are largely from those investors.” That group of investors, he said, was “a perfect fit for us and puts us in a good position, however we want to go forward.”

Suffredini also admitted that while helps get those first modules built for launch to ISS in ’24, they will still need “probably between half a billion and a billion dollars” to build their full private space station.

Sounds like a lot, eh? ISS cost about $100 billion, but that is not including the contributions of the U.S.’s international partners. It is also likely a conservative estimate, as it likely does not include any of NASA’s overhead in connection with the station. Construction officially began in 1994, but actually started a decade earlier when President Reagan first proposed its predecessor, the Freedom station, and those costs are not included as well.

So Axiom will build its private station for about a billion, and get it done in about five years. NASA spent anywhere from $100 to $200 billion, and took more than three decades to get it launched and built.

Which product would you buy?

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Jeff Wright

    To be fair, ISS is larger and the goal was to keep Soviet rocketeers busy. Now here is where I part with libertarian purists with their “gov’t bad” religon. The Boeing plane fiasco is an example of profit first thinking. Soviet R-7 development was due to the same fire in the belly of Chief Designers that Musk has today-besides, it was Soviet rocket men who had greater influence. Here it was LeMay and Rickover who got blank checks, leaving space advocates to fight each other for scraps-trying to kill each others programs. I have the same problems with libertarians that I have with Greens in that neither respect infrastructure. Say what you will about FDR, but he was a builder-and many libertarians use public works with no appreciation. Back then, FDR men wanted third worlders to live as well as we do. Todays Greens want us to live as poorly as they do. Ironic that the Reagan blanket amnesty and off-shoring of jobs-in a de facto sense redistributed more wealth away from the United States than doubling foreign aid-a political non-starter. You didn’t want oversight of big tech, and they repay you with censorship. And what did libertarian-conservatives get from union smashing blanket amnesty? Anna Navarro. How’d that work out? Simon won his wager over Paul E. because he saw people not as “using up” resources-but AS a resource. Libertarians also make that same mistake in attacking infrastructure like SLS. I am stoked that we have several HLLVs in development. We should cheer NASA projects-not jeer them. The Soviets, backward as they were future positive infrastructure building cosmists-but like the Greens who want us in caves-after they chop off our opposable thumbs-you would ALSO harm our space-industrial base. Libertarians need to do some soul searching in this area.

  • Pat Myers

    Good point, Jeff. Also, you bring up something that crossed my mind from the start. The ISS is huge, the size roughly of a football field. How big is this station that Axios is supposed to build going to be by comparison? Another thing; NASA’s contractors (the ones who actually designed and built the ISS) had to create the thing from scratch. R&D work like that takes money, so of course the ISS would cost more. Never mind that all this work was done under the aegis of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (see Congress about that one) which automatically inflates costs.

    I’m more than happy that Axios is putting up a new space station. But I note in your story that they are contracting with Thales Alenia to build the thing, an outfit that has already done work building pressurized modules for the ISS, and you can bet that the skill sets they acquired doing that will be applied to the Axios station, to be sure at much less cost, since the design work has already been done. (As an aside, what happened to Bigelow? I’d heard some years back that they were putting up a station as well. Why haven’t they?)

    All this “capitalism in space” is all well and good, although it is interesting to note that only a relative handful of “capitalists”, who have more money than God (Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and the like) can afford to do it. And even then, they still had to spend years designing and developing their hardware, essentially doing the same thing NASA and its contractors had to do lo those many years ago. Also, since they essentially own the rockets and spacecraft they fly, and fly them they do, NASA is just an interested observer whenever SpaceX launches one of it’s ships, they are not operating under those onerous FAR’s, certainly not to the extent that ULA does, so their services cost much less. The devil, as they say, is in the details.

  • Edward

    Jeff Wright,

    To be fair, ISS is not 100 times larger than Axiom’s proposed free-flying space habitat, nor does it hold 100 times as many people or researchers. ISS is far more costly per productivity unit than an Axiom (or Bigelow or Ixion habitat) will be. The goal of ISS was and is scientific exploration, including gaining experience with large structures in space (exploring designs and methods). The goal of inviting the Russians as partners in ISS (at that time “Freedom”) was to prevent Russian space engineers from working for bad-actor countries to develop military rockets. If you are going to be fair, please be fair.

    I don’t understand how you think that the Boeing plane fiasco, Soviet military R-7 development, LeMay and Rickover getting blank checks and leaving space advocates to fight each other for scraps, or having several commercial companies developing HLLVs are examples of a “gov’t good” philosophy.

    You suggested: “We should cheer NASA projects-not jeer them.

    Keep in mind that NASA is under control of Congress and the administration. NASA has many talented, skilled, and knowledgeable scientists, engineers, and technicians, but many of their their capabilities are squandered by the politicians. Political decisions made ISS more expensive, less capable, and slower to construct than it should have been. The same is true of the Space Shuttle.

    You don’t seem to understand the complaints about SLS. It is not the concept or the capabilities, it is the inefficiency of SLS. Its development costs are tremendous, its schedule slips almost year for year, meaning that it is taking far too long to become operational. Another complaint is that its launch rate is far too low and the launch costs far too high. Although we do not yet know the capabilities of SLS, we have no reason to doubt that they will be as advertised. Of course, until the Space Shuttle flew we thought that they would be almost as advertised, too. Most NASA projects should be cheered, but many of the flagship projects are not as successful as they should be.

    We should cheer for the successful projects, such as the Voyagers, most of the planetary science missions, the solar science missions, many of the Earth science missions, and investigations into aeronautics. However, many of us think that we should be getting more for our money, that for what we have paid we should be further along on the exploration of and expansion into space. We should not cheer the projects that have held us back more than they brought us forward.

    Thus, NASA is an example of why government isn’t so good and may be bad. A lot of money and time have been squandered. It is why in the 1990s several citizens decided to compete with the government monopoly-monopsony in space (ironically they are combined, where space is concerned) and started up their own commercial space companies, including the X-Prize. Fortunately, in 2005 or so, the government chose to throw just enough scraps to commercial space to allow it a foothold in the launch business.

  • Jeff Wright

    NASA and the moonshots were examples of how gov’t can work as American Exceptionalism. Saturn was costly too-but worthwhile. SLS is a simpler beast than either Saturn or Musk’s largest designs-with a lower part count. So don’t hate the rocket-hate the suits who are slow walking it because they really wanted to sell scores more EELVs with hydrogen boil-off meaning they could sell more. Vulcan is what is being pushed now. Less hydrogen for NTRs than SLS, more expensive and less capable for most missions than Falcon. That is the rocket without a mission right there.

  • Edward

    From the article:

    The demand for those commercial modules and, eventually, standalone space station will change over time. Initially, demand will come in large part from flying private and professional astronauts, with research playing a smaller role. “I think the future is manufacturing in space,” Suffredini said. “About 15 years from now, that’s going to eclipse all the other markets by far.”

    These are my expectations, too.

    Microgravity manufacturing failed to happen with the Space Shuttle or with the ISS. Even Apollo was disappointing in that way. Six Moon landings, three space station missions, and one international goodwill mission did not fulfill the promise of the Apollo Applications Program. NASA’s expensive and poorly utilized manned space program has hindered, rather than fostered, commercial use of space. No wonder so many people are interested in creating independent commercial space industry and low-cost launches.

    Jeff Wright wrote: “So don’t hate the rocket-hate the suits who are slow walking it …

    It isn’t the rocket that people are disappointed in, it is the cost, delay, and low launch rate.

    [Vulcan] is the rocket without a mission right there.“.

    Vulcan is being developed specifically for Air Force — er — Space Force missions.

  • Jeff Wright

    About that-I wonder if an end of life Falcon Heavy stack burned to depletion could carry a second stage of forty tons of simple compressed gas to best the Vulcan upper stage. No hot plume. Oh, radon gas only for ion drives. Keep the other noble gases here.

  • Edward

    Come to think of it, the only NASA manned space project worth its expense is Project Gemini. It is where we learned almost everything we needed to know about space travel. Orbital mechanics, rendezvous, docking, and surprising lessons about working outside the spacecraft. I have long found it ironic that the most important and (to me) interesting of the NASA projects does not have a movie or HBO mini-series immortalizing it. How disappointing that Gemini is virtually forgotten..

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *