SpaceX returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States in 2020 when it launched the first crewed missions to space from American soil in nearly a decade. The company already launched three crewed missions for NASA and is now offering its launch services for commercial passengers to visit space. “[…] A new era in human spaceflight is here,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, as SpaceX finalized contracts with Axiom Space, Inc. to launch civilians aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).
Axiom is a space infrastructure developer and mission manager headquartered in Houston, Texas. The company signed a deal with SpaceX to launch four crewed missions to space. The agreement for the first mission (Ax-1) was announced last year when the company finalized a contract with NASA to access the Space Station. A crew of three civilians along a former astronaut will launch atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft in January 2022 from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Ax-1 crewmembers are: former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who will serve as Ax-1 mission commander; entrepreneur Larry Connor, Investor/philantropist Mark Pathy, alongside Eytan Stibbe, who is a former Israeli Air Force pilot. They will ride SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the Space Station where they will stay for around eight days.
Today, June 2nd, Axiom announced that it finalized three additional contracts with SpaceX to launch crewed flights for missions designated as: Ax-2, Ax-3, and Ax-4. “We are beyond excited to build upon our partnership with Axiom to help make human spaceflight more accessible for more people,” said Shotwell. The company has not revealed who will fly aboard the three missions, only that ‘Peggy Whitson and champion GT racer John Shoffner will serve as commander and pilot for the Ax-2 mission.’ “All four crews will receive combined commercial astronaut training from NASA and SpaceX, with SpaceX providing training on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, emergency preparedness training, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises, as well as partial and full simulations,” SpaceX shared. “The growing partnership between Axiom and SpaceX will enable more opportunities for more humans in space on the road to making humanity multiplanetary,” the company states.
Axiom’s founder is former NASA Astronaut Michael Suffredini, who now works as the company’s president and CEO. “Axiom was founded on a vision of lasting commercial development of space,” he said. “We are on track to enable that future by managing the first-ever private missions to the ISS as a precursor to our development of the world’s first commercial space station. SpaceX has blazed the trail with reliable, commercial human launch capability and we are thrilled to partner with them on a truly historic moment,” Suffredini stated in a press release.
Featured Image Source: NASA/SpaceX