SpaceX set new dates for the next pair of crewed flights to the International Space Station (ISS). The company is scheduled to launch the first private crew mission for Axiom and the fourth operational spaceflight for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
Axiom's first all-private crew to the orbiting laboratory are: former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who will serve as Ax-1 mission commander; Entrepreneur Larry Connor, who will serve as Dragon pilot; Investor/philanthropist Mark Pathy, will serve as mission specialist, alongside former Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe. The AX-1 crew was previously scheduled to launch to ISS on March 31st, SpaceX now targets to launch no earlier than Sunday, April 3 [time pending]. A Falcon 9 rocket will propel AX-1 crew to orbit from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX will launch the AX-1 crew atop the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft that launched SpaceX’sfirst crewed mission on May 30 to August 2020 as part of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission that certified the spacecraft is capable of transporting humans to and from the ISS. Endeavour second mission, Crew-2, that took place from April 23 to November 8, 2021. Crew Dragon Endeavour set the record for the longest spaceflight by an American crew vehicle with almost 200 days in orbit.
"After 10 days in orbit, including eight days living and working aboard the orbiting laboratory, the Ax-1 crew will splash down off the coast of Florida. The new targeted launch date will allow teams to complete final spacecraft processing ahead of the mission," said Axiom representatives in a press release. The AX-1 crewmembers plan to perform 25 science research experiments at the orbiting laboratory during their visit, ranging from medical research to technology development in microgravity. Axiom arranged their time at the ISS with NASA. As part of their agreement, Axiom purchased vital necessities from NASA, like in-orbit life support equipment and food for the AX-1 crew to enjoy at the Station. The agency also plans to purchase from Axiom the capability to return scientific samples aboard SpaceX Dragon that must be kept cold in transit back to Earth.
SpaceX will also launch NASA's Crew-4 mission to the Space Station next month, scheduled for Tuesday, April 19 [time pending]. Date is subject to change, NASA said it is "pending completion of program reviews expected early next week to formalize the new target." Crew-4 will launch NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and European Space Agency (ESA) Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, on a six-month-long mission to the ISS Laboratory. They will launch aboard a new Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a thrice-flown Falcon 9 booster. It will be the first commercial crew mission to launch astronauts on a booster's fourth flight. According to NASA Commercial Crew Manager Steve Stich, the agency plans to launch Crew-4 using first-stage booster B1067, which previously launched the company’s 22nd cargo Commercial Resupply Services mission to the orbiting laboratory (CRS-22) in June 2021, then it launched Crew-3 astronauts to the ISS in November 2021, and it deployed Turkey’s Turksat-5B satellite in December 2021. Now, the previously-flown booster will launch the Crew-4 astronauts aboard a brand-new Dragon. Stitch also shared with reporters that the agency is “working on an evolutionary path to fly a booster up to five times'' for crewed flights.
Featured Image Source: Axiom & NASA