One if by land, two if by sea…three if by space?
UK Space Agency signed an agreement with Axiom on Wednesday to send British astronauts on a commercially sponsored two-week scientific mission to space.
“We want to put the UK at the forefront of the global race for commercial space investment, continue to support scientists and engineers to test new technologies, and carry out important research,” said George Freeman, minister of state for science, innovation and technology.
UKSA has put out a call to institutions and industry for research and demo requests, with a focus on AI, biotech, telecom, semiconductors, and quantum tech experiments.
Brits in space: While the UK has yet to announce a crew, former UK astronaut Tim Peake has emerged as a front-runner to lead the team. The Brits have sent just two astronauts to space: Helen Sharman in 1991 and Tim Peake in 2015. An astronaut with flight experience will likely be required to take the helm for a trip to the ISS.
What say you ESA? The mission has the “full support” of ESA and underscores the continent’s long-term commitment to human spaceflight. Poland, Hungary, and Sweden have also signed astronaut deals with Axiom.
- “ESA is working on Europe’s preparation of the post-ISS era and the development of a sustainable commercial space economy in low Earth orbit,” said Daniel Neuenschwander, an ESA director.
Space airline: Axiom—in partnership with SpaceX—organizes end-to-end commercial missions to the ISS. The company has two missions already in the books, with a third mission scheduled for early next year. The UK’s mission to the ISS will likely cost upwards of $200M, and the British commercial sector will be footing the bill.
+ Axiom habitat update: In addition to organizing spaceflights, Axiom is hard at work building ISS habitat modules that are designed to break off post-ISS decommissioning and join to become an independent station. The company recently announced it is nearly finished building the shell of Hab One, which is scheduled for a 2026 launch.