3 mins read 29 Nov 2021

Saber Astronautics and Axiom Space Developing Astronaut Program

Saber Astronautics with Axiom Space will develop the first formal program to enable Australians and Australian Industry access to the International Space Station’s microgravity laboratory. 

Concept image of Axiom’s Space Station modules which will become a new space station. Credit: Axiom Space Inc.

Australian company Saber Astronautics has signed with private spaceflight leader Axiom Space to create an Australian presence on the International Space Station (ISS). This will be the first formal program to allow Australians and the Australian space industry access to the Station’s microgravity laboratory to develop a new generation of space-developed products for human health, materials, electronics, cleantech, and more.  

“What we would like to do is open the benefits for broader industrial use by conventional industry,” said Dr Jason Held, CEO of Saber Astronautics.

The Saber Astronautics program aims for direct industry involvement and flights with members selected from the Australian public. Since its completion in 2011, the ISS has been a testing ground for advanced scientific research, with much of the technology for space-finding applications from the commercial sector on Earth.

NASA competitively selected Axiom to create new modules to be added to the ISS which will begin in late 2024. The modules are planned to later detach and create their own new free-flying station. This move is widely understood to be paving the way for a commercial successor to the 20-year-old Station. NASA and Axiom further signed for the first private astronaut mission to the ISS in February 2022, with Axiom planning multiple missions as a precursor to the construction and addition of the new ISS modules.

The ISS provides a unique environment for product development with the lack of gravity, the sterile vacuum of space, and easy access to cooling. New products which will have Earth applications include near-perfect fibre optics, protein crystals for better drugs, and quantum computing, also more thin and pure semiconductors and ultra-pure metals.

This deal with Axiom builds on Saber’s growing leadership in Australian space operations. Saber currently owns and operates the Responsive Space Operations Centre (RSOC) based in Adelaide and Colorado. The Adelaide RSOC received $6M from the Australian Space Agency’s Space Infrastructure Fund in 2020.

Saber Astronautics will engage directly with Australian companies in each state through a series of workshops in coordination with local governments. The program will both train the companies that participate as well as help them to determine which products would benefit from the ISS program.

This will not only give the Australian market access to build and test new and competitive products but allow for astronauts to be sourced from the Australian population. This allows Australians a path to becoming an astronaut that does not involve changing citizenship to the USA or European Union - the first of its kind in history for the Australian space community.

“With Axiom, we now have a way to develop an Australian astronaut program and significant industry advantages at the same time,” said Dr Jason Held.

Workshops will begin in the first quarter of 2022 and businesses are encouraged to reach out to Saber Astronautics.