Axiom Space Launches Historic Private Space Mission: Four Astronauts Head to ISS

The astronauts will play a crucial role in advancing the development of the first-ever commercial space station, as the International Space Station approaches its final phase of operation.

A team of four astronauts from Axiom Space, an aerospace company, is set to embark on the second private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 21.

Their mission aims to advance the development of the first commercial space station, coinciding with the ISS's final phase of service. Utilizing SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, the Axiom Space crew will conduct various scientific, outreach, and commercial activities while residing in the orbiting laboratory.

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft

At 5:37 p.m. EDT on Sunday, the Falcon-9 rocket, carrying a team of four astronauts, is set to launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew has chosen the name "Freedom" for their Dragon spacecraft.

On May 22, they are scheduled to dock with the Space Station.

Meet the A-Team

The Axiom-2 mission comprises Commander Peggy Whitson, Pilot John Shoffner, and Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Peggy Whitson, Axiom Space's Director of Human Spaceflight, is an esteemed former NASA astronaut and ISS commander. With three long-duration space flights under her belt, she has accumulated an impressive 665 days in space, setting a record as the American astronaut and woman astronaut with the most time spent in space.

John Shoffner has been appointed as the pilot for Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission. Known for his expertise in the fibre optic telecommunications industry, Shoffner will leverage his experience to promote advancements in space access. Alongside conducting scientific research and technology demonstrations, he will actively engage in outreach and educational initiatives, aiming to raise awareness about the exciting new era of space exploration.

Joining them are Saudi Arabian Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni, an experienced fighter pilot, and Rayyanah Barnawi, a biomedical researcher specializing in cancer stem-cell research. Barnawi's focus during the Ax-2 mission will be on stem cell and breast cancer studies.

Ready to launch

NASA has approved the launch of the second mission following a successful Flight Readiness Review. Axiom Space, NASA, and SpaceX officials assessed the launch capability and on-orbit operations. The upcoming commercial mission will include private astronauts and representatives from foreign governments, marking the first female-led private mission. The four-member crew is currently in quarantine to ensure their health and prevent the transmission of pathogens to the space station.