SpaceX is enabling space tourism. The aerospace company has demonstrated it can reliably launch and return humans aboard its spacecraft. SpaceX became a leader in the industry as the only company that has launched astronauts from American soil in nearly a decade under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Despite of the agency also awarding Boeing a contract to launch astronauts, but ended up falling behind with its 'Starliner' spacecraft testing for over a year now. SpaceX is quickly moving forward with human spaceflight, the company arranged multiple contracts with private passengers that will soon have the opportunity to go on a space tour.
Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), designated as ‘AX-1’, will be launched by SpaceX next year. A crew of three civilians along a former astronaut will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft in January 2022 from the John F. 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 eight days.
Image Source: Axiom Space
“Once the proposed crew passes review and qualification, the four members will train for their flight with NASA, international partners, and SpaceX […] Trainers will familiarize the private astronauts with systems, procedures, and emergency preparedness for the space station and the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Based on current mission planning, training is scheduled to begin this summer,” NASA shared in a press release on Monday, May 10. In which the agency announced that it finalized the agreement for Axiom’s AX-1 crew to stay at the orbiting laboratory. “We are excited to see more people have access to spaceflight through this first private astronaut mission to the space station,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters. “One of our original goals with the Commercial Crew Program, and again with our Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development Program, is that our providers have customers other than NASA to grow a commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.”
“The first private crew to visit the International Space Station is a watershed moment in humanity’s expansion off the planet and we are glad to partner with NASA in making it happen,” Axiom President and CEO Michael Suffredini stated in a press release. “A thriving commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit begins with expanding access to serious, nontraditional users and that is exactly the aim of our private astronaut missions.” Under the agreement, Axiom will purchase Space Station services from NASA and coordinate in-orbit activities for the AX-1 crew. The services Axiom is required to purchase include, vital resources that are needed to survive in space, such as oxygen and storage space, among other things. Along with the deal, NASA will purchase transportation space aboard Axiom's AX-1 Crew Dragon to return a collection of scientific samples that “must be kept cold in transit back to Earth,” the agency said.
SpaceX Crew Dragon docked to the International Space Station's Harmony module. Source: NASA
Featured Image Source: NASA