Axiom Space signed a deal with SpaceX to launch four crewed missions to space. The first mission is identified as ‘Ax-1,’ it will be the first fully-commercial crew that will visit the International Space Station (ISS). A crew of three civilians along a former NASA 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/philanthropist 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.
Astronaut López-Alegría has visited space four times over a 20-year career at NASA. The last time he visited the ISS was in 2007. He will become the first person to ever command both a civil and a commercial human spaceflight mission. Stibbe will become Israel’s second person in space, Pathy will be the 11th Canadian to see Earth from ISS orbit, and Connor will become the first private mission pilot and the second oldest person to visit space at 71 years old. “This collection of pioneers – the first space crew of its kind – represents a defining moment in humanity’s eternal pursuit of exploration and progress,” López-Alegría stated. “I know from firsthand experience that what humans encounter in space is profound and propels them to make more meaningful contributions on returning to Earth. And as much as any astronaut who has come before them, the members of this crew have accomplished the sorts of things in life that equip them to accept that responsibility, act on that revelation, and make a truly global impact. I look forward to leading this crew and to their next meaningful and productive contributions to the human story, both on orbit and back home,” he said in an Axiom press release.
The crew “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 stated. “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 said.
This week, Axiom shared a set of photographs of the Ax-1 crew undergoing training at a SpaceX Crew Dragon simulator. “Training continues as López-Alegría and Larry Connor – commander and pilot of Axiom Mission 1, the first ever private crew to visit the International Space Station – become familiar with their ride,” Axiom captioned the photos, shown below. The simulator is identical to the Dragon spacecraft cockpit that will transport the crew to the orbiting laboratory. It features three touchscreen displays that provide a variety of data, orbital flight tracking, and the crew will be able to adjust the displays to look at different views of Earth. Even though Crew Dragon is designed to operate with full autonomy, the software features an option to switch to manual control to steer the craft and displays an attitude control view on the screens. SpaceX says Crew Dragon's displays provide real-time information on anything from Dragon's position in space, to possible destinations, and the environment onboard. A simple tap on a screen is capable of igniting Dragon’s integrated space thrusters to slightly alter the craft's direction.
Training continues as @CommanderMLA and Larry Connor – commander and pilot of Axiom Mission 1, the first ever private crew to visit the International Space Station – become familiar with their ride. pic.twitter.com/S7H6Mk0Vkn— Axiom Space (@Axiom_Space) June 22, 2021
In 2020, SpaceX released an online game that is a similar to what the astronauts use for training. The interactive simulator allows users to try to dock the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station by using similar controls the astronauts will use during their voyage in space. It is likely that the Ax-1 crew has to practice docking Dragon manually with simulator to be prepared in the unlikely event that they experience some issues. You can test your spacecraft pilot skills by playing the game: SpaceX Crew Dragon Simulator
Crew Dragon missions will autonomously dock and undock with the space station, but crew can take manual control of the spacecraft if necessary— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 12, 2020
Featured Image Source: Axiom Space / SpaceX