NASA approves Axiom Space's first private astronaut mission to ISS
Axiom Mission 1 is scheduled to launch at the end of March
NASA and its international partners announced Wednesday that they had approved crew members for Axiom Space's first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The spaceflight, or Axiom Mission 1, is set to lift off on Mar. 30 from the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
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The "Ax-1" crew includes Axiom Space astronauts Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe.
López-Alegría – a former NASA astronaut – will serve as the mission commander and Conner will serve as pilot. Pathy and Stibbe, who are from Canada and Israel, respectively, will be mission specialists.
The crew will fly on Crew Dragon Endeavour – spending eight days on the orbiting laboratory conducting science, education and commercial activities – and splashdown off the coast of Florida after 10 days.
While mission activities are still under review, the Houston-based company previously revealed a microgravity research portfolio the Ax-1 crew intends to undertake in orbit – an endeavor sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.
The crew has been training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and other facilities since August 2021
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It has also been training with NASA’s space station international partners at the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as with launch contractor SpaceX at its facilities in Hawthorne, California.
NASA and Axiom mission operations teams began joint simulations in December which will continue in preparation for launch.
"This represents another significant milestone in our efforts to create a low-Earth orbit economy," Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA, said in a statement. "I wish these Axiom crew members safe travels, and I hope they find their time in space productive and enjoyable."
"The goal for the Ax-1 crew is to set a standard for all future private astronaut missions in terms of our preparation and professionalism," López-Alegría noted. "As the commander, I am proud of the work these crew members have put in to be ready to conduct meaningful work on the International Space Station and glad to see them meet the standards required of all astronauts flying to station since Expedition 1. Ax-1 is focused on a huge amount of science and outreach activities, and we look forward now to finalizing that flight program."
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In addition, NASA recently announced its selection of Axiom Space to begin negotiations for the second private astronaut mission. Ax-2 is targeted to launch between fall 2022 and late spring 2023.
In January 2020, selected Axiom Space to design and develop commercial modules to attach to the ISS.