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Axiom Says That Their NASA-funded Space Station Is Not NASA-Funded

By Keith Cowing
October 21, 2021
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Mary Lynne Dittmar Testimony – Hearing: International Collaboration and Competition in Space: Oversight of NASA’s Role and Programs
“Axiom is the first (and so far, the only) company to develop a new station destined for low Earth orbit (LEO) without government funds for development, launch, and operations.”
NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module for International Space Station, NASA
“On Feb. 28, 2020, NASA awarded Axiom a firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum potential value, inclusive of options, of $140 million over an up to seven-year ordering period consisting of a five-year base period and a two-year option. NASA has selected Axiom Space of Houston to provide at least one habitable commercial module to be attached to the International Space Station as the agency continues to open the station for commercial use.”
Keith’s note: If you read the Space Act Agreement between NASA and Axiom you will see that it states that Axiom will get the funds to actually build and launch its first module. But let’s apply a simple sanity test to all of this. NASA is giving Axiom $140 million for data and other lessons learned from this effort. If the claim that $140 million from NASA to buy data from the development of this module has nothing to do with construction, would Axiom have gone ahead and built and launched the module and docked it to the ISS without the NASA money? If there is no connection whatsoever between the $140 million and the development and launch of the Axiom module – as Axiom would have you think – then the answer should be “yes”, right? You then have to ask if investors would have even been interested in Axiom without the $140 million financial vote of confidence from NASA. Also, $140 million goes a long way to develop data and lessons learned, while serving to keep a brand-new company going before it has any actual product. Just saying.
As for the question of whether NASA should be priming the pump to spur commercial use of space – sure, why not. It is a good role for NASA and the commercial crew/cargo experiences show that there is clear value for all involved. As such there is no reason why NASA should not help with ISS and LEO operations either. But splitting hairs and claiming that no government assistance was given – when in fact it was – a massive amount – simply muddies the reality of what is going on – and how it is happening – and leaves people shaking their heads.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.