Axiom Space is a space infrastructure developer and mission manager headquartered in Houston, Texas. The company aims to own and operate the world's first commercial space station by 2024. Axiom signed a deal with SpaceX to launch four crewed missions to the International Space Station (ISS). Axiom's first crewed mission, AX-1, was launched by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on April 8, 2022. A crew of four were transported to the ISS aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft for a 10-day trip. AX-1 passengers Larry Connor of the United States, Eytan Stibbe of Israel, and Mark Pathy of Canada, who were led by former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, made history as the first fully-commercial crew to visit the Space Station.
On January 20, NASA announced it approved Axiom’s second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, AX-2. “Axiom Space’s Director of Human Spaceflight and former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will command the privately funded mission. Aviator John Shoffner of Knoxville, Tennessee, will serve as pilot. The two mission specialists will be announced later,” the agency shared. The crew will be launched by SpaceX during the second quarter this year from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. AX-2 will be similar to the previous AX-1 mission, during which the crew performed science research in microgravity and also enjoyed awe-inspiring views of Earth.
“With each new step forward, we are working together with commercial space companies and growing the economy in low-Earth orbit,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters. “In addition to expanding access to orbit for more people, we are also hoping these private astronaut missions will help the industry learn and develop the skillset to conduct such missions, and NASA is benefitting from gaining additional capability, particularly with returning additional cargo from the Space Station.” As part of the NASA and Axiom AX-2 contract, the agency will launch science cargo aboard Crew Dragon that must be kept in ultra cold conditions in transit back to Earth. The cargo they will return includes: a Nitrogen/Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) tank and two cargo transfer bags, if needed. The contract also states the appointed AX-2 commander will have to work 10 hours at ISS to complete NASA science or perform important tasks for the agency.
"Axiom Space’s Ax-2 mission builds upon the success of Ax-1, which demonstrated our team’s ability to work collaboratively with our partners at NASA and SpaceX to plan and execute a complex human spaceflight mission,” said Derek Hassmann, Axiom’s chief of Mission Integration and Operations. “Axiom continues to fund and fly private astronaut missions to the International Space Station to build our expertise and attract new customers in preparation for the launch of our space station, Axiom Station. Our new Ax-2 crew, together with a full mission manifest of science, outreach, and commercial activities, will continue to increase utilization of the International Space Station National Laboratory and demonstrate to the world the benefits of commercial space missions for all humanity,” they stated in a press release.
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About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.