after its billions of dollars Earlier this year, Axiom Space, the builder of the next International Space Station, hired Google’s Tejpaul Bhatia to become its first chief revenue officer, responsible for developing and monetizing the space ecosystem.
Introduced to Axiom in 2017 while serving as executive in residence at Citi Ventures, Bhatia invested in the company as an angel investor in 2020 after landing the company. $140 million Contract with NASA He then joined as part of the leadership team in July.
But the Axiom isn’t the only space pioneer in the universe. Together $400 million In the NASA contracts for Grab, a gold rush is underway for space ventures to set up shop in Sky City.
more than a dozen contractors With the announcement of the two last month, has thrown its hat in the ring. On October 22, Lockheed Martin, in partnership with Voyager Space and Nanoracks, submitted a bid to launch its starlab space station By 2027, and on October 25, Jeff Bezos announced Blue Origin’s plans to partner with Sierra Space and Boeing. orbital reef space station between 2025 and 2030.
For Axiom’s part, NASA approved the Axiom station to be built in phases while attached to the ISS in 2028 to ensure a seamless transition from the ISS.
The first module, Hub 1, is slated to dock in 2024 and will include research facilities and living quarters for four crew members, along with touchscreen communications panels and a large window. A second module, Hub 2, with similar features is planned in 2025. A microgravity lab will follow in 2026. Then in 2027, a power tower with solar arrays will be joined by three modules and form the Axiom station, doubling the capacity. of ISS. In 2028, the Axiom station will separate and begin self-orbiting.
spoke with Bhatia about his ambitions to build a massive industrial complex in low-Earth orbit over the next seven to 10 years, not just WeWork for an off-planet retreat and a research space for brands and institutions. will serve as the center, but also a method. For smaller nations to establish their own space program.
Taking a page out of Google’s playbook, it plans to monetize the last frontier this way.
Booking the Last Escape
Axiom Space was founded in 2016 by former International Space Station manager Michael Suffredini and Intuitive Machines co-founder Kam Gafferian. It has raised a total of $150 million since its closure. $130 million A Series B round led by C5 Capital in February saw its lead investor, former Blue Origin chairman Rob Meyerson, taking a seat on the board. The company has over 300 employees headquartered in Houston.
Axiom’s main source of revenue comes from being an end-to-end mission provider for short-duration stays on the ISS. That means it packages astronaut training and round-trip transportation aboard SpaceX (which includes food, water, oxygen, communications, data, electricity and other essentials) and allows private citizens an all-inclusive stay of seven to 10 days. sells to. It also sells research missions for experiments to be carried out in the ISS Microgravity Lab, and has begun selling materials and media sponsorships.
Two missions are planned for the next year. Retired NASA astronaut and Axiom VP Michael Lopez-Alegria will lead the first, ax1, which is set for February 21. Investors Larry Connor, Mark Pethe and Eaton Stibbe will serve as the crew. The Washington Post reported the ticket price to be $55 million per passenger.
Its second mission, ax 2 The latter is planned for 2022, and will include retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who holds the American record for most time spent in space, and John Schaffner, American investor, racing car driver and pilot. There are still two seats available on this trip, but Axiom wouldn’t confirm whether Tom Cruise, who is a . working on $200 million universal film There’s More Rumor With Elon Musk NASA Have to go up, be on that flight.
Its third and fourth missions are being planned for 2023, and one will include the winners of its Discovery Channel competition reality TV show, “Who wants to be an astronaut?”
Axiom’s competitors in this area include space adventures, was co-founded in 1998 by Peter Diamandis of Bold Capital. The company has transported seven private citizens, including Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberte, to the ISS via the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Its second scheduled mission to the ISS will be a space walk in 2023. Its orbital trip on SpaceX was planned for later this year but canceled it According to Space News, due to low demand.
Despite the hype, over the past few months billionaires Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have been taking private citizens, including Star Trek’s William Shatner, for joy rides to the edge of space, the market for those people. who can afford the ticket price.
Fortunately for Axiom, billionaires are not their target market.
welcome to sky city
Although it may not seem like it”Jetsons,” With space cars glowing with neon lights around celestial buildings, things are about to get a lot more interesting come 2024 when Axiom docks its first habitat on the ISS.
Bhatia said the additional crew quarters and lab facilities will enable Axiom to offer more missions as it will no longer be subject to ISS capability constraints. As demand dictates, Axiom is also open to working with other rocket providers such as SpaceX, including Boeing’s starlinerhandjob once approved.
Bhatia sees 2024 as a turning point for revenue growth.
“Once the Axiom station is in place, we will have a hybrid model where companies, institutions and governments can custom build, buy or lease physical and digital space,” he said.
“The cool thing about our physical space is that the module, which can be a laboratory, data center or habitat, can fly around and reassemble, undocked like Legos.”
But Bhatia shivered at the thought that it was being called a space hotel, where rooms could be booked from an app. He views the Axiom station as a massive industrial space complex, with potential customers seeking to build their own space programs, from the government to companies and institutions in need of microgravity laboratories and colocation manufacturing facilities.
“We offer physical space that includes food, water, oxygen, life support systems, bandwidth, data, insights, edge computing, communications, power – things that have to be in the classroom that every business, institution or government needs to operate. will need to be done,” he said.
“But what’s even more exciting is that we can also offer our digital platform that we’re selling as infrastructure-as-a-service where developers can use sensors and other instrumentation to build businesses, Just like developers use the iPhone’s sensors. Build apps.”
Whether Bhatia will actually create a software development kit to allow third-party development of the Axiom station operating system, but he said good use of the station’s sensors could include monitoring space debris and Earth’s climate.
For the total addressable market, Bhatia measures it as countries that have budgets for space programs and are not yet able to afford one.
“Our goal is to make sure there are no gaps – that once the ISS reaches the end of its life, there is a full-service, fully functioning private station for all,” he said. “Whether a country has a budget of billions of dollars or a fraction of that, we can create a solution to meet their needs.”
Bhatia expects NASA, ESA, JAXA, Canadian Space Agency and Roscosmos to switch positions Annual revenue of $2 billion to $3 billion Spend on the Axiom station as the successor to the ISS. For the long term, he expects Axiom to serve a multi-billion dollar market, citing a report by Morgan Stanley, which is based on the commercial space sector. $350 billion in 2020 and $1 trillion by 2040.
It Takes a Googler
As a serial entrepreneur, investor and tech executive who helped build the startup ecosystem for Google Cloud, Bhatia said the space economy requires a venture capital mindset.
“My job as Chief Revenue Officer is to build a hyper-growth business platform that will serve as a launchpad for businesses, industries and markets over the next seven to 10 years,” he said. “This is a very different model of how the space industry has worked to date as a government taxpayer effort. The private sector is far better suited to the task.”
As far as competition from Starlab and Orbital Reef is concerned, Bhatia says he welcomes it and is confident Axiom is years ahead.
“I’m a little over 100 days on the job and see that it’s not theoretical – the metal is bending, people are moving up, contracts are being signed,” he said. “Our first module is already under construction at our Thales Alenia plant in Italy. It’s not science fiction. It’s really happening.”
And at the moment, he is not worried about profitability.
“Fundraising is very important and we are following the model of the five most valuable companies in the world – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google – which were running at a loss when they first started. We are looking to get as many shareholders as possible. Trying to create value and taking capital to build required infrastructure and innovating at a pace with a focus on security.”