Featured Image: July 1, 2020 SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour (center right), the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 resupply ship (center bottom) and Europe's Columbus laboratory module figure prominently in this photograph taken during a spacewalk conducted by astronauts Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy. All three are attached to the U.S. Harmony module with the International Docking Adapter on top./Source: NASA
SpaceX will launch the first all-private crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for Axiom, a space infrastructure developer headquartered in Houston, Texas. Axiom's AX-1 mission will launch former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who will serve as Ax-1 mission commander; entrepreneur Larry Connor, investor/philanthropist Mark Pathy; and former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe. They are scheduled to lift off on Wednesday, March 30 at 2:46 p.m. EDT atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket aboard Crew Dragon Endeavour from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
To date, SpaceX has conducted a total of five crewed missions with reusable Crew Dragon vehicles. The company is ready to launch a couple of crewed missions this year, starting with the Axiom AX-1 mission by the end of March and NASA’s fourth operational mission (Crew-4) in April.
Crew Dragon Endeavour (identified as capsule C206) is the spacecraft that launched SpaceX’s first crewed spaceflight, it will now transport the first Axiom crew to the Space Station. As of November 2021, Endeavour has completed two crewed missions to the orbiting laboratory. It first launched NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on 30 May 2020, during the Demo-2 mission that marked the return of human spaceflight capabilities to the United States on American-made spacecraft. NASA depended on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS for roughly a decade since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011. SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission certified that Crew Dragon is a safe mode of transport for astronauts. Endeavour returned from the ISS on August 2nd, 2020. Behnken and Hurley are veterans who named the spacecraft after the Space Shuttle Endeavour, aboard which they first flew into space during the STS-127 and STS-123 missions, respectively.
Endeavour conducted a second crewed flight on April 23, 2021. It transported SpaceX’s second operational mission (Crew-2) to the Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Crew-2 returned to Earth the evening of November 8, 2021, the mission set a record for the longest spaceflight by an American crewed spacecraft of 199 days in orbit. SpaceX recovers spacecraft by fishing it out of the ocean after it reenters Earth’s rough atmosphere with a parachute-assisted splashdown. As seen in the photo below, Endeavour looked like a burnt marshmallow after atmospheric reentry but it's interior is in perfect condition. SpaceX teams recovered it onto a recovery ship after it landed with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Aki Hoshide, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. The spacecraft has been refurbished to launch the AX-1 crewmembers on a ten day trip to the ISS where they will enjoy magnificent views of the world from orbit and perform science research.
The AX-1 crew has been training since August 2021, they have trained at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to learn all about the ISS systems and emergency procedures. They also underwent training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to learn about the Crew Dragon spacecraft with a simulator. In May 2021, the crew trained in simulated zero gravity and centrifuge, then in June they started spacecraft training. They started to received ISS training through December 2021, as well as practiced emergency procedures with a Space Station replica. Axiom hosted a virtual press conference with senior leadership from Axiom, SpaceX, and NASA to preview the historic Ax-1 mission, video linked below.
VIDEO: AXIOM AX-1 MISSION PRESS CONFERENCE
Featured Image Source: NASA