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Beyond the ISS: Axiom Space’s Path to Commercial Space Leadership

By Sunita Arnold, Aug 1, 2023

As humanity’s reliance on space-based services including communication, positioning, navigation, weather tracking, earth observation, and the Internet of Things (IoT) grows, so too does the significance of space systems. They have become a crucial part of our infrastructure, enabling us to predict weather patterns, monitor wildfires, and facilitate navigation. The space industry has experienced a surge in innovation and investment, leading to a significant decrease in the cost of satellites, components, and launches. This has opened the door for the development of new capabilities using existing space infrastructure.

Axiom’s Role in the Changing Landscape of Space Activity

The International Space Station (ISS), a remarkable product of collaboration among 14 countries, was an ambitious project that fostered global unity and led to significant scientific discoveries. Now, as the ISS nears its retirement in 2030, a new era of space activity looms. The emergence of China’s Tiangong space station highlights the shifting dynamics in space, underlining national security implications for the U.S. and the Western world.

Recognizing the need for a commercial successor to the ISS, NASA initiated a competition to select a commercial space station replacement. Axiom Space, founded by experienced leaders from the ISS Program and the only company granted permission to connect its modules to the ISS, was chosen to lead this transition. The company is now building Axiom Station, the world’s first commercial space station, to help maintain a balance in space activities and address evolving national security challenges.

Axiom Space: Pioneering Commercial Spaceflight Services

Axiom Space is carving its own path in the realm of commercial spaceflight. As a leading provider of human spaceflight services and developer of infrastructure safe for human habitation in space (human-rated space infrastructure), the company has a unique vision for the future. Axiom is pioneering the transition from ISS operations to its own commercial space station, Axiom Station.

Life Science Capabilities 

Stem Cell Research

According to Axiom, Microgravity–the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless–provides unique advantages to study stem cells, particularly in the context of understanding the aging process as well as offering an environment that optimizes in vitro cell culture conditions for stem cell renewal and expansion. First, microgravity induces an aging phenotype in many in vivo physiological systems on an accelerated timescale, which can be modeled in stem cells to study their behavior under the same conditions. Further, microgravity provides a superior environment for cultivating stem cells in vitro. As Axiom explains, on Earth, it is difficult to maintain primary cultures of stem cells, as these cells are driven to differentiate or quickly reach senescence. Read more about Axiom’s stem cell research capabilities here.

3D Bioprinting 

3D bioprinting is an innovative and emerging technology that combines principles of 3D printing with biological materials to create three-dimensional structures and functional tissues. Axiom believes microgravity may be an ideal environment for 3D bioprinting of tissue structures. On Earth, bioinks must retain a 3D structure that defies gravity, which usually requires higher-viscosity materials. The higher-viscosity bioinks, however, have a negative impact on cell biology and survival during the printing process. Microgravity conditions could, therefore, provide an environment in which lower viscosity bioinks can be utilized while maintaining 3D structure. Read more about Axiom’s 3D Bioprinting capabilities here.

Medical Capabilities

Aging Research

According to Axiom, spaceflight offers aging researchers a distinct research model in which to test new ideas that may uncover meaningful discoveries. Axiom has studied the role of aging upon rodents–who display similar age-related changes to humans in space–who have spent time in orbit. Future Axiom studies are expected to produce genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data from various tissues. Axiom believes these results will push the boundaries of our understanding of the aging process in space and on Earth and serve as the foundation for future studies to test novel hypothesis-driven ideas and promising interventions and drugs. Read more about Axiom’s efforts to reduce aging effects here.

Bone Osteoporosis Research

Bone is living tissue that strengthens with exercise and deteriorates with long-term inactivity and aging, Axiom therefore believes that the development of new therapies targeting pathways that promote bone formation and block bone resorption are crucial, as humans spend more time in space. Axiom’s space station will be equipped to address a broad range of bone-related research questions, with the company developing a state-of-the art rodent habitat to be used as a space vivarium that will support up to 300 mice for modeling bone diseases in space. Read more about Axiom’s effort to reduce bone osteoporosis here.

Medical Implants

Space exploration offers the potential to find a cure to Retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration; two common retinal degenerative diseases that affect 1.5 and 30 million people globally and lead to end-stage blindness. While such a protein-based retinal implant provides significant improvement compared to other leading therapies on the market, manufacturing has been a challenge. However, when manufactured in the microgravity environment of Low Earth Orbit, test implants have shown significant improvements in quality. According to Axiom, a microgravity environment confers a unique advantage for fabricating high-quality thin retinal films, via layer-by-layer deposition, which have a variety of applications beyond the artificial retina. Read more about Axiom’s medical implant capabilities here.

Other Capabilities

According to Axiom, their Ax-1 and Ax-2 mission are already taking on a growing list of research investigation and capabilities, including:

  • Stellar stem cells in collaboration with Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute at Cedars-Sinai
  • Cancer in low-Earth orbit in collaboration with Sanford Stem Cell Institute at UC San Diego
  • mRNA response and stability in Space in collaboration with King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center, Saudi Space Commission (SSC)   
  • Modeling tumor organoids in low-Earth orbit, in collaboration with UC San Diego and The Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. 
  • Cloud seeding in microgravity in collaboration with King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM), Saudi Space Commission, and Nanoracks

Axiom Station: A Step Towards Future Innovations

Axiom Space aims to create a platform that paves the way for breakthroughs in research, in-space manufacturing, technology, and innovation. The construction of the first module of the Axiom Station has begun in collaboration with Thales Alenia Space, Axiom’s partner and a key player in the aerospace sector.

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The Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU)

To further redefine how humans live and work in space, Axiom Space has developed a next-generation spacesuit: The Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU). Designed with advanced features for space exploration, the AxEMU equips astronauts for extended exploration of the Moon and beyond. It offers a revolutionary design, superior fit and comfort, and innovative technologies to enable more comprehensive lunar surface exploration.

Axiom Space: A Promising Investment

Axiom’s leadership team brings over 30 years of NASA experience to the table, including the expertise of Michael Suffredini, the former ISS Program Manager, and Dr. Kam Ghaffarian, the founder of Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, one of NASA’s major engineering services contractors.

The company’s investor base includes reputable firms like Boryung Pharmaceutical, Alumni Ventures, and ARK Investments. The firm’s board has been further fortified by the inclusion of Jay Kim, Chairman and CEO of Boryung.

Closing Thoughts

As Axiom Space continues to break new ground in human spaceflight, it presents a promising investment opportunity. With the retirement of the ISS and the need for a new platform for scientific discovery, Axiom is uniquely positioned to fill this void. Its strong team, strategic partnerships, growing customer roster, and exclusive ISS connectivity privilege position it to be a leader in the commercial space sector. The expanding space economy, combined with Axiom’s technical expertise, industry recognition, and impressive milestones, make Axiom Space a compelling investment opportunity on the Linqto platform. Whether you are a new or existing investor, consider the vast possibilities of the final frontier and join Axiom Space in their mission to build for beyond.

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What is the International Space Station (ISS)?

The International Space Station (ISS) is a modular space station (habitable artificial satellite) in low Earth orbit. It’s a multinational collaborative project involving five space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).

What is the difference between SpaceX and Axiom Space?

SpaceX and Axiom Space are both involved in space exploration, but they operate in different areas of the industry and serve different roles. SpaceX provides the vehicles for reaching space, Axiom Space is focused on providing a place to go once you’re there and facilitating the activities you can do in space.

What are Axiom Space’s long-term goals?

Beyond building the Axiom Station, Axiom Space aims to pioneer the commercialization of low-Earth orbit, creating a thriving ecosystem for research, innovation, and commercial opportunities in space. This includes fostering advancements in various fields like in-space manufacturing, biotechnology, and materials science.


Sunita Arnold

Sunita Arnold

As Director of Content Strategy at Linqto, Sunita deftly merges creative and strategic planning. Guiding a talented team, she aligns content with marketing objectives to deliver compelling, brand-consistent materials. Her diverse 15+ year career spans fintech, healthcare, and public relations, with highlights including managing investor relations for an alternate investment platform, steering business development in a leading PR firm's sports and entertainment sectors, and overseeing operations for a wealth management data service. Her past achievements include significantly contributing to the growth and efficiency of a top global fund administrator. Keeping pace with industry trends, Sunita applies her strategic acumen and market insight to advance Linqto's content strategy.