Axiom Space, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a company responsible for managing missions to the International Space Station (ISS) exclusively for private customers. In addition to their mission management role, Axiom Space serves as a space technologies manufacturer and is currently engaged in the development of an advanced moonwalking spacesuit for NASA Artemis astronauts. The company also has ambitious plans to construct its own space station in Low Earth Orbit, starting with launching the first station module in 2025.
Axiom signed a multi-launch agreement with SpaceX in 2021 to launch four crewed missions to the International Space Station (ISS). The first Axiom mission (Ax-1) was launched on April 8, 2022 which was the first fully-private mission, as previously reported by TESMANIAN. The company is ready to launch its second private crewed mission (Ax-2) to the ISS which will launch a crew of four aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft. The Ax-2 crewmembers are: Axiom Space’s Director of Human Spaceflight former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will serve as Ax-2 commander; American motorsports racing driver John Shoffner who will serve as AX-2 pilot; And the other pair are from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia inaugural astronaut class. Saudi astronaut Ali AlQarni will take his first trip to space as a mission specialist during the Ax-2 mission. He will launch to the Space Station alongside Rayyanah Barnawi, who will make history as the first Saudi Arabian woman to ever travel to space
“We're very excited for the part that will be engaging with kids from all over Saudi Arabia and all over the world, talking about our experiments, talking about space and having them trigger their curiosity towards space,” Barnawi said during a press conference on May 16. “I'm sure that we're gonna enjoy this mission,” she said. “We're almost five days away, so our excitement is above the limits!”
“We are really honored and privileged to have you guys and to be part of this amazing mission,” Alqarni added. “We are really thrilled and excited for our mission and to represent Saudi Arabia on this journey.”
“To say I'm excited to be here would be a gross understatement,” Ax-2 Pilot John Shoffner said at the conference. “I feel like I've been preparing for this my entire life," Shoffner added. "I've been a fan of space since I was a child. I grew up in the age of the early space race, so getting here now and having a chance to fulfill that excitement is very, very powerful to me.”
Previously, the Ax-2 mission target launch date was May 8th but the mission was delayed due to multiple factors. NASA, Axiom, and SpaceX representatives had a launch briefing to determine the next launch opportunity. This week, the agency announced that the Axiom Ax-2 mission is now scheduled for Sunday, May 21. A flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket is set to liftoff at 5:37 p.m. ET. If all goes as planned, the quartet will dock at the orbiting laboratory by May 22nd at 9:30 a.m. ET. In case weather conditions are not favorable at liftoff, a backup launch opportunity is also scheduled for May 22, but if they do not launch the mission would get significantly delayed. “If we don’t get off by the 22nd, we’ll stand down with the Axiom 2 mission and turn our focus to the SpaceX-28 mission,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS program manager, referring to SpaceX’s 28th cargo Dragon mission that is scheduled to launch June 3rd. “Axiom, NASA and SpaceX will get together and look for the next best opportunity,” he said.
Originally, the Axiom Ax-2 crew was expecting to stay at the Space Station for 10 days but the agency had to reduce their stay. “In order to make the mission fit within the flow of activities that ISS has lined up, we made the joint decision to reduce the docked time to eight days,” said Derek Hassmann, Axiom’s chief of mission integration and operations. He shared at the launch briefing that reducing the amount of days the crew would spend at the ISS “was no impact to the [science] research objectives,” he said.
The Ax-2 crew is scheduled to go through launch day operations on May 19. During the rehearsal, the crew will don their sleek custom-made SpaceX spacesuit and simulate all they will do up to countdown to ensure everything is ready for liftoff. SpaceX and NASA will livestream the Ax-2 mission and related events over the weekend, the video link and schedule is below (all times are in Eastern Time).
NASA TV Schedule
Saturday, May 20
6:00 p.m. ET – Axiom Mission 2 prelaunch news conference (audio livestream)
Sunday, May 21
4:30 p.m. – Launch coverage of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Axiom Mission 2 to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 5:37 p.m. ET
7:00 p.m. – Axiom Mission 2 postlaunch media briefing (audio livestream)
Monday, May 22
7:30 a.m. – Coverage of the rendezvous and docking of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Axiom Mission 2 to the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for 9:24 a.m. Coverage will continue through hatch opening at 11:13 a.m., and the Crew’s welcoming remarks at 11:45 a.m. ET
VIDEO: NASA TV Live Broadcast
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Featured Images Source: Axiom Space
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.