Axiom Space Ax-1 Mission to Expand Health, Technology Researchers’ Access to ISS

The International Space Station, photographed by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli following the undocking of his Soyuz-TMA on 23 May 2011. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

Self-assembling technology for future space habitats, cancer research, and devices to purify air on space stations are among investigations headed to the International Space Station on first all-private astronaut mission to the orbiting laboratory  

HOUSTON, 17 March 2022 (Axiom Space PR) – Axiom Space, a leader in human spaceflight now building the first commercial space station, announced today further details on the groundbreaking research planned for the upcoming Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) – including self-assembling technology for satellites and future space habitats, cancer stem cell study, and air purification. 

Ax-1, history’s first all-private astronaut mission to the ISS, is a pivotal first step toward Axiom Station, the first private space station. Axiom’s multinational crew of four private astronauts will conduct more than 25 different experiments while aboard the space station, made possible by Axiom’s full-service integration into the NASA process for science and technology activities. Data collected in-flight will impact understanding of human physiology on Earth and in orbit as well as establish the utility of novel technologies that could be used for future human spaceflight pursuits and humankind on Earth.  

“As the first step on a path to building a diverse, thriving economy in low-Earth orbit, Axiom has partnered with leaders in academia and industry to bring new users and new investigations in research to the space station,” said Christian Maender, director of In-space Manufacturing and Research for Axiom Space. “The collection of biological and technological tests during the Ax-1 mission represent a breadth of research that will inform everything from human health considerations to novel infrastructure and design for our future homes away from Earth, beginning with Axiom Station.” 

The Ax-1 crewmembers are Michael López-Alegría, commander; Larry Connor, pilot; and Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy, mission specialists. 

Select Ax-1 Mission Investigations

Artist’s depiction of a future TESSERAE self-assembling space station in orbit around Mars. (Credit: MIT Space Exploration Initiative / TU Dortmund Fraunhofer Institute)

TESSERAE, IN COLLABORATION WITH MIT MEDIA LAB SPACE EXPLORATION INITIATIVE AND AURELIA INSTITUTE 

TESSERAE (Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments) is a multi-year research program exploring self-assembly methods for in-space construction. Named after the small tiles in ancient Roman mosaics, the modular TESSERAE tiles can join to create a larger structure. TESSERAE tiles pack flat for launch; once activated, they form a robotic swarm of autonomous and self-assembling units used for on-demand construction, with future applications ranging from an extra room on a space station, to parabolic mirrors, to a home base on other worlds. The prototypes launching on the Ax-1 mission include an extensive suite of sensing and electro-permanent magnets that monitor diagnostics – provide insight into the quality of bonds between tiles – and drive conformations. This scaled demonstration will build on previous microgravity evaluations of the TESSERAE experiment to explore a new frontier for in-orbit construction of satellites and future space habitats. 

MODELING TUMOR ORGANOIDS IN LOW-EARTH ORBIT, IN COLLABORATION WITH UC SAN DIEGO AND THE SANFORD CONSORTIUM FOR REGENERATIVE MEDICINE 

Using a human cancer stem cell nanobioreactor model (a vessel that accelerates cell growth conditions) and cancer stem cell reporter system, this investigation will leverage the accelerated aging aspects of the microgravity environment to evaluate early pre-cancer and cancer changes in tumor organoids. This cellular biology project is focused on identifying biomarkers for early detection and supports future aims of cancer stem cell research on the ISS. The Ax-1 crew will study cell samples under a high-resolution microscope to determine cell cycle activity in cancer growth. 

Photocatalyst air purification device (Credit: Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation)

JAMSS PHOTOCATALYST, IN COLLABORATION WITH JAMSS, TOKYO UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE, AND TOKYO UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY

The Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS) photocatalyst air purification device will launch on Ax-1 for a technical demonstration to verify the performance of the improved filter. This experiment also will deploy a control device without photocatalytic LEDs, to evaluate the JAMSS photocatalytic filter. With an improved air filter, the JAMSS device will be able to clean the air on the ISS and remove cabin odor, using the power of light to safely convert volatile compounds in the air into carbon dioxide and water with the goal of improving the quality of life for living and working in space. JAMSS will be the only Japanese company with research on the Ax-1 mission.

TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR SPACE HEALTH, A CONSORTIUM OF BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, CALTECH, AND MIT

Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) is conducting biomedical research on each of the crewmembers both before the launch and after their return to Earth. A variety of data will be collected, including physiological data, a battery of cognitive tests, balance and perception tests, and visual acuity tests. Increasing human health and performance is a goal of TRISH’s EXPAND (Enhancing eXploration Platforms and ANalog Definition) program, which compiles health data from private spaceflight into a centralized research database and broadens understanding of how space impacts human health and how to prepare humans for the demands of long-distance and long-duration space travel, including to the Moon and eventually, to Mars.  

Crew-supported Research 

Connor, Stibbe, and Pathy, each of whom has a long history of philanthropic involvement, also have partnered directly with research organizations in their regions on a range of human health and technology investigations, from aging and chronic pain to the first in-space demonstration of two-way holoportation, a mixed-reality app using special lenses to project images via hologram.

About Axiom Space 

Axiom Space is guided by the vision of a thriving home in space that benefits every human, everywhere. The leading provider of human spaceflight services and developer of human-rated space infrastructure, Axiom operates end-to-end missions to the International Space Station today while privately developing its successor – a permanent commercial destination in Earth’s orbit that will sustain human growth off the planet and bring untold benefits back home. More information about Axiom can be found at www.axiomspace.com.