A commercialized low-Earth orbit may be the future of the ISS

The International Space Station is a floating laboratory and international project, but it is not ongoing.

“The space station program will end someday,” said Kyle Herring, a NASA spokesman.

What You Need to Know

  • The International Space Station is budgeted through 2024, but that could be extended until 2028
  • Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria’s Axiom Space company hopes to enter and help commercialize low Earth orbit
  • Lopez-Alegria sees microgravity construction as a promising field

Herring said that while the scientific experiments done in microgravity are invaluable, everything costs money.

The ISS is only budgeted through 2024, possibly 2028.

“NASA’s main image is to step aside, possibly turn a low Earth orbit into the commercial space industry, let that grow and grow. And our focus with the Artemis program is deep space, go back to the moon, and then go further, ”Herring said.

Michael Lopez-Alegria is part of one such company that hopes to commercialize low-earth orbit.

First inspired by the age of 11 years since the launch and moon landing of Apollo 11, Lopez-Alegria spent two decades as an astronaut with NASA traveling beyond imagination.

“The view of the Earth is just spectacular. We are 250 miles higher, “he said.” The Earth is spinning beneath us – that view is hard to express. “

Lopez-Alegria’s company, Axiom Space, came to NASA with a proposal. It became a contract that the former astronaut – recently inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame – said he believed.

Axiom Space plans to build and launch commercial modules, starting in 2024, to connect to the ISS. Someday they will detach the modules if the ISS offers a farewell.

The company would allow countries around the world to rent space in space, adding more as demand increases.

“It could be a day, instead of operating our own space station, we are using the commercial space stations that other companies like Axiom could build,” Herring said.

“If a company says,‘ I want to build this widget in space and that’s how I want my space factory to look, ’we’re going to build a module for that,” Lopez-Alegria said. “We really think there’s a great future in terms of microgravity manufacturing.”

According to the VP of Business Development of Axiom, all gravitational issues, such as sedimentation or convection, tend to embed impurities in products. The processes in space are more accurate – and profitable.

“We can produce a fiber optic cable … it’s much more uniform that transmission speeds are 100 times faster than what you can build on Earth,” he said. “We all have a common belief that this is a solution that makes sense as an enterprise, but even more importantly for the betterment of the nation.”

Axiom Space is already building its first module, with the structure created in Italy. They will then integrate it into their facility in Houston before launch.

The space company said launches will explode from Central Florida Space Coast to commercial providers, such as SpaceX or Blue Origin. And the company may open a handful of jobs in the region as well.

“I think in 10 years you might see more than one commercial space station in low Earth orbit, and in 20 years you’ll see multiples,” Lopez-Alegria said. “We’ll see a time when low Earth orbit becomes like another country, a place we can visit to have fun, do work, experience how it is. And being there, I can tell you that experience is not like visiting someone. any other country on Earth. It’s literally completely out of this world. “