NASA selected the Houston-based start-up Axiom Space, founded in 2016, to build the first commercial habitat module for the International Space Station (ISS). This module will be used as a destination for future commercial space missions, potential housing experiments, technological developments, and more that will be carried out by commercial space travelers who will fly to the ISS after launch with human-rated spacecraft such as the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Boeing Starliner regular operation.
Axiom Space was founded in 2016 and is led by co-founder and CEO Michael T. Suffredini, who previously worked as a program manager for the ISS at NASA's Johnson Space Center. The company has a lot of former NASA talents in its small team and is finally planning to make its in-space modules the base of its own private space station after it was initially connected to the ISS while still in operation. NASA has extended the planned life of the ISS, but the agency's current leadership plan is to promote private orbital laboratories and commercial facilities as the ultimate replacement.
In 2018, Axiom teamed up with designer Philippe Starck (Yes, the same one who designed a luxury yacht for Apple Founder Steve Jobs) to take a look at what their future space station modules could look like, including crew quarters with interactive displays and a dome that offers a breathtaking view of the earth and surrounding space.
This ISS module may not be a fully-fledged private space station, but it is a step in NASA's intent to further commercialize the existing space station and ultimately pave the way for more commercial activities in near-Earth orbit. Axiom's mandate also includes the provision of "at least one habitable commercial module", with the result that it may be upgraded to build more in the future. Next, the new partners negotiate terms and price for a contract for the module, which also includes the delivery schedule.