Last month, NASA selected private "space hotel" builder Axiom Space to build "at least one habitable commercial module to be attached to the International Space Station" (ISS). This morning, Axiom itself announced how it will start doing that.
Over the course of five to seven years, Axion will prepare to build, then build, then operate its own "element" to be attached to "Node 2 forward port" on the ISS. Of course, to do that Axiom first needs to find a way to get its personnel to the ISS and figure out what it is working with -- and also make some money with which to build its "element."
To that end, today Axiom announced that it "is planning history's first fully private human spaceflight mission to the International Space Station." Axiom has signed a contract with SpaceX to fly one mission commander "professionally trained by Axiom" and three accompanying "private astronauts" aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon space capsule to and from the International Space Station.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
This first mission is slated to take place in the second half of 2021, and will last 10 days total -- two transiting to and from the ISS, and eight days aboard the station. It will "be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space," said Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini. In future years, Axiom plans to conduction similar missions "at a rate of up to two per year."
At the same time as these missions provide space tourism income to the company, Axiom will be building and expanding a new "Axiom Segment" section of the ISS, which will ultimately split off and become an entirely separate space station of Axiom's own after the ISS is retired.