NASA picks space tourism outfit for its first commercial ISS module

It'll play a key part in NASA's recent bid to privatize space.

The ongoing NASA privatization push just reached an important milestone. The administration has chosen Axiom Space to supply its first commercial destination module for the International Space Station. The habitable module will connect to the station's Node 2 forward port and serve as an example of what companies can do -- Axiom Space has plans for space tourism and other private journeys. Officials at NASA hope it will usher in a "low-Earth orbit economy" aboard the ISS where NASA is just another customer.

Axiom won the nod as part of a competition that offered private outfits access to station facilities and a port of their own. It's now negotiating a contract that will include a five-year "base performance" period and a two-year option.

It's not certain when Axiom's module will be ready, although it's aiming to offer trips in 2021. It doesn't have much wiggle room, as NASA wants to transition to a more privatized ISS after 2024. It's safe to say this will mark a departure from the 'classic' research-oriented days of the ISS, especially when the Russians are selling their own trips.