During the NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Committee virtual conference on January 18, the agency shared an updated schedule for its upcoming missions, including spaceflight by private companies. Axiom Space has an agreement with NASA to conduct at least two private passenger visits to the International Space Station (ISS) annually. SpaceX will launch Axiom’s AX-1 mission this year, that will launch a crew of four aboard Crew Dragon. NASA officials announced the all-private mission is scheduled for March 31st . Previously, the target date was February 21st but was delayed by a month “to account for additional spacecraft preparations and space station traffic,” the agency stated in a press release on Tuesday. Dragon requires an available port at the ISS to remain docked during the AX-1 crew 8 to 10 day visit.
The AX-1 crewmembers are: former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who will serve as Ax-1 mission commander; Entrepreneur Larry Connor, who will serve as Dragon pilot; Investor/philanthropist Mark Pathy, will serve as mission specialist, alongside former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe. SpaceX might launch the AX-1 crew atop the same Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft that launched SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission. Inspiration4 was the company’s first all-civilian spaceflight to orbit Earth for three days in September 2021. The first-stage booster that supported the mission is identified as B1062. It has conducted a total of four flights, including the U.S. Space Force’s GPSIII-3 and GPS III-4 navigation satellite deployments and a Starlink mission.
After around 10-days the AX-1 crew will return aboard Dragon with a parachute-assisted splashdown in the ocean. The AX-1 crewmembers plan to perform 25 science research experiments at the orbiting laboratory during their visit, ranging from medical research to technology development in microgravity. Axiom arranged their time at the ISS with NASA. As part of their agreement, Axiom purchased vital necessities from NASA, like in-orbit life support equipment and food for the AX-1 crew to enjoy at the Station. The agency also plans to purchase from Axiom the capability to return scientific samples aboard SpaceX Dragon that must be kept cold in transit back to Earth.
Featured Image Source: Axiom Space