Axiom Space has firmed up its plans with NASA for the first all-civilian mission to the International Space Station — and says it has three more such tours lined up for the next couple of years.
But those next tours are going to be more costly, thanks to the law of supply and demand.
“There’s still not much in the way of supply,” Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini told reporters today during a teleconference. “The spacecrafts are awesome, but there’s just not a lot of flights available yet, and the demand is still growing.”
“The first private crew to visit the International Space Station is a watershed moment in humanity’s expansion off the planet, and we are glad to partner with NASA in making it happen,” Suffredini said.
“We have a lot of data that’s created in space, but how valuable would it be to actually do compute and storage in space?” Meyerson asked. “We’ve been talking with Axiom about that and helping them to form partnerships. How do we use the C5 portfolio in cybersecurity and threat protection to assist Axiom with their supply chain and their partners, to bring the most advanced technologies to that critically important area?”
The longtime president of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture, Rob Meyerson, will be joining the board of directors for another pioneering space company in connection with a $130 million funding round. Texas-based Axiom Space says the fresh funding will boost its effort to build the world’s first commercial space station, starting as early as 2024.
The Series B funding round was led by London-based C5 Capital, which focuses on cybersecurity and related sectors. Axiom Space said it will partner with other companies in C5’s portfolio to establish an orbital center for cloud computing and cybersecurity operations.
Meyerson, who left Blue Origin in 2018, is an operating partner at C5 Capital. “Axiom Space is a force in the space sector, and it will become a centerpiece of the C5 Capital portfolio,” he said in a news release. “The Axiom Station will be the infrastructure upon which we will build many new businesses in space, and it will serve as the foundation for future exploration missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.”
Since last May, Tom Cruise fans and space fans have been buzzing over reports that the star of “Top Gun” and the “Mission: Impossible” movies was working with NASA and SpaceX to fly to the space station and shoot scenes for a movie.
Today the full crew was revealed on ABC News’ “Good Morning America”: Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will command the Crew Dragon mission. Investors Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe are paying $55 million fares to join Lopez-Alegria for what’s expected to be a 10-day station stayover in 2022. Axiom says it’s still working with NASA to iron out the details.
Even without Cruise, there could be some movie-worthy twists to the mission’s tale. Connor turned 71 years old this month, which sets him up to become the second septuagenarian to go into orbit. (The late astronaut-senator John Glenn, who flew on the shuttle Discovery in 1998 at the age of 77, was the first.)
“Somebody said to me, ‘You’ll be the second-oldest person ever to go into outer space.’ And my response, which they already knew, was ‘Well, I think age is overrated,” Connor, who heads an Ohio real-estate investment firm, told ABC News.
Will “Space Hero” go where no reality TV show has gone before?
Twenty years after “Destination: Mir” promised to put the winning contestant of a broadcast TV competition into orbit, “Space Hero” aims to take advantage of new commercial spaceflight opportunities to follow through on that promise at last.
But cautionary tales abound.
“Destination: Mir,” created by “Survivor” producer Mark Burnett for NBC, fizzled out along with Russia’s Mir space station not long after the project was unveiled in 2000. A similar project, aimed at putting boy-band singer Lance Bass on the International Space Station, faded away in 2002 when producers couldn’t come up with the money.
One British TV series, “Space Cadets,” told contestants that they were being trained for a space shot but actually set them up for one of the most elaborate hoaxes in television history.
This time will be different, said veteran entertainment industry executive Marty Pompadur, the chairman of Space Hero LLC.
“Space Hero is the new frontier for the entertainment sector, offering the first-ever truly off-planet experience,” Pompadur said today in a news release. “We aim to reinvent the reality TV category by creating a multi-channel experience that offers the biggest prize ever, to the biggest audience possible. Space Hero is about opening space up to everyone — not only to astronauts and billionaires.”
The show would trace the training of contestants for a spot on a spacecraft heading to the space station as early as 2023. Axiom Space, a commercial venture that has already struck a deal with NASA and SpaceX for a privately funded space trip, would be in charge of training and mission management. A global audience would cast votes to pick the winner, and there’d be live coverage of the 10-day space stay.
Space Hero says it’s currently in discussions with NASA for a potential partnership that would include educational initiatives. A countdown clock on the company’s webpage is ticking down to April 12, 2021, which marks the scheduled kickoff for the application process as well as the 60th anniversary of the world’s first human spaceflight.
The venture’s founding partners are Thomas Reemer, who has produced unscripted video programming in Germany; and Deborah Sass, whose career has focused on entertainment and lifestyle branding.
“When Thomas and I started this venture, we were very clear that there was nothing like it on the planet,” Sass said. “Today we have started our mission to find our distribution partner and are ready to take it to the next stage and get the world excited about Space Hero.”
The project is being produced by Propagate Content, a company founded by Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens. Those executives have a storied pedigree in the entertainment industry, touching on shows ranging from “The Office” to an upcoming Eurovision spin-off series called “The American Song Contest.”
Will “Space Hero” succeed where past space TV projects failed? Those past efforts went by the wayside primarily because of a lack of funding. Potential distributors and sponsors have traditionally been chary about backing entertainment projects that could turn into a scrub — or, far worse, a Challenger-style tragedy.
Spaceflight doesn’t come cheap: The projected ticket price for flying commercially to the space station on a SpaceX Dragon or a Boeing Starliner is thought to be in the range of $50 million to $60 million, and NASA has said it’d charge roughly $35,000 a day on top of that cost for a space station stay.
But if projects that are already in the pipeline for space station stardom — such as Estee Lauder’s skin care ad campaign or the granddaddy of them all, Tom Cruise’s zero-G movie — turn into palpable, profitable hits, then it just might be time to put “Space Hero” on your appointment calendar for must-see space TV.
Update for 5 p.m. PT Sept. 17: I asked Hannah Walsh, who is handling public affairs for Space Hero, about the venture’s funding. Here’s her emailed reply:
“Space Hero is currently in the second stage of fundraising, which is exactly where they should be in the plan, and [they] are very comfortable with where they are in the process. Contracts have been signed with all partners and the next step is to evaluate the distribution offers and choose the relationship that best suits the project. Potential investors can find out more by contacting investment firm Gerald Edelman.”
Houston-based Axiom Space has won NASA’s nod to attach a commercial habitation module to the International Space Station by as early as 2024.
The “Axiom Segment” of the space station is designed to connect to the station’s Harmony node and provide a crew habitat, a research and manufacturing facility and a large-windowed Earth observatory. When the International Space Station reaches retirement, Axiom plans to add a power platform and turn its hardware into a free-flying commercial space station.
Axiom’s team also include Boeing, Thales Alenia Space Italy, Intuitive Machines and Maxar Technologies.
How much would you pay for a 10-day stay in low Earth orbit? Houston-based Axiom Space has set a $55 million price point for trips that it says could begin as early as 2020.
If you want to fly that soon, Axiom Space is offering accommodations on the International Space Station. But the company, headed by a former NASA space station program manager, says it’ll eventually have its own place in space.
“It is an honor to continue the work that NASA and its partners have begun, to bring awareness to the profound benefits of human space exploration and to involve more countries and private citizens in these endeavors,” Axiom Space CEO and President Michael Suffredini said today in a news release.
Former space station manager Mike Suffredini says he’s working on a plan to send up a commercial space module that could be attached to the International Space Station – and then disattached to become the foundation for a private-sector outpost in orbit.
“We intend to work on a low-Earth-orbit platform to follow the International Space Station,” Suffredini said today at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2016 conference in Seattle.
Representatives of the new venture, called Axiom Space, are in contact with NASA about the idea, but Suffredini stressed that he’s staying at arm’s length to comply with the space agency’s conflict-of-interest requirements.
Suffredini left NASA last September and is now Axiom’s president as well as the president ofStinger Ghaffarian Technologies‘ commercial space division. Axiom is currently structured as an SGT subsidiary, with SGT co-founder Kam Ghaffarian serving as Axiom’s CEO, Suffredini said.
Axiom already has seed funding, Suffredini said. If NASA gives the go-ahead, the venture would raise additional money from investors to finance the construction of the module and get it launched to the station in the 2020-2021 time frame.