Gravitics Gets $125 Million Order From Axiom

A precursor to Gravitics' 4-meter space station module design, which is being used to develop manufacturing and assembly methods.

Gravitation

Washington-based startup Gravitics has signed a $125 million contract to expand Axiom Space’s planned space station, the latest deal in the growing private market for space habitats.

“Working with the space station operator who will soon have hardware in orbit is an exciting development,” Colin Doughan, CEO and founder of Gravitics, told CNBC.

Axiom is among the companies building private space stations as NASA plans to end the International Space Station’s time in orbit. Axiom already has modules of its space station under construction by Italian aerospace contractor Thales Alenia. The Gravitics order adds another “pressurized spacecraft” that would be attached to Axiom’s station after its planned launch in two years.

The deal between Axiom and Gravitics, which was founded in 2021, is the startup’s most significant to date. Gravitics has previously raised a total of $20 million in venture funding as it seeks to make its mark as a maker of private space stations.

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The nearly 50-employee company, based in a northern suburb of Seattle, aims to deliver space station modules — essentially the building blocks of space stations — as a turnkey product line that can be launched on a variety of rockets, whether they're currently flying rockets, such as SpaceX's Falcon 9, or future behemoths, such as Blue Origin's New Glenn.

The space station modules Gravitics is designing range from 3 meters (9 feet) to 8 meters (26 feet) in diameter. The largest module, which the company claims will have the “largest interior volume in a self-contained spacecraft,” is called StarMax, a name inspired by SpaceX’s towering Starship rocket.

“We started looking at Starship and thought, ‘Somebody is going to maximize that payload volume,’” Doughan said.

Currently, NASA's Commercial LEO Destinations, or CLD, program has been handing out development contracts to companies building space stations in anticipation of the ISS's intentional destruction at the end of the decade. Axiom was the first to win a NASA contract to build space station modules, and Gravitics is set to join its spacecraft later this decade.

But the deal with Gravitics is not exclusive, Doughan said.

“We hope to be in multiple teams for the [second phase of CLD]not as the most important [bidder] because we have zero interest in the operations… But I do expect that you will see some architectures have some degree of [of our space station modules] “These are built into some of these designs,” Doughan said.

Gravitics has been working on prototypes and testing key components, including propulsion system testing and pressurized module prototypes. Doughan said Gravitics will fly some of its components to the ISS for testing later this year and plans to launch a subscale spacecraft in 2026.

A propulsion system test at the Gravitics facility in Marysville, Washington.

Gravitation

“We're a hardware company, so we're building while we're finalizing the design at the same time,” Doughan said.

The company signed an agreement with NASA on new approaches to testing large spacecraft, as well as an early Space Force development contract. The latter contract, Doughan pointed out, represents Gravitics “working with those customers who are ready to buy.”

“Space Force's budget is already larger than NASA's, and that's not going to stop,” Doughan said.

The Axiom deal is a catalyst for Gravitics' growth, Doughan said. The company plans to double its workforce in the coming months and raise a new round of funding.

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