A historic launch: The Axiom Space Mission 1 takes commercial crew to the ISS

A historic launch: The Axiom Space Mission 1 takes commercial crew to the ISS

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The unit successful the SpaceX Dragon, from near to right: Mark Pathy, Larry Connor, Michael López-Alegría, Eytan Stibbe.


Friday morning, the archetypal all-private astronaut ngo to the International Space Station (ISS) is slated to motorboat from NASA's Kennedy Space Center successful Merritt Island, Florida. The four-person unit comprising the Axiom Space Mission 1 (Ax-1) volition alert to the ISS aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour connected a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.  

Private citizens, oregon "space tourists," person traveled to the ISS before, alongside government-affiliated astronauts. This mission, however, is different. The wholly backstage unit volition walk 8 days surviving and moving aboard the ISS -- they are acold from "tourists."  The ngo represents a immense milestone for NASA and its backstage partners arsenic they question to physique a sustainable abstraction economy

"This is each portion of making humans a space-faring civilization -- taking beingness connected this satellite crossed the stars, eventually," Benji Reed, elder manager of Human Spaceflight Programs astatine SpaceX, said during a quality briefing connected Thursday. "It's not conscionable that they're going for a visit. They've done a ton of training... They get to beryllium connected the presumption doing science, doing research. It bodes precise good to spot this level of mentation spell into this ngo arsenic we look toward the aboriginal of each america being capable to unrecorded and enactment successful space."

Preparing for the mission 

Weather permitting, Ax-1 is slated to motorboat astatine 11:17 a.m. EDT connected Friday from Launch Complex 39A astatine the Kennedy Space Center (tune successful to ticker it here).


SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 astatine Launch Pad 39A


The unit volition beryllium led by Commander Michael López-Alegría, who was calved successful Spain, raised successful California, and spent 20 years arsenic a NASA astronaut. Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio volition service arsenic pilot. They're joined by Mission Specialist Eytan Stibbe of Israel and Mission Specialist Mark Pathy of Canada.

Axiom Space, a backstage steadfast founded successful 2016 successful Texas, volition person authorization implicit the ngo during astir phases of flight. NASA is liable for the mission's integrated operations, which covers the spacecraft's attack to the ISS and the crew's 8 days aboard the ISS. NASA gives up authorization implicit the ngo erstwhile Dragon exits the vicinity of the abstraction station.

Meanwhile, NASA has worked with its backstage partners and different authorities agencies to outline jurisdiction during assorted phases of the ngo successful the lawsuit of a mishap.

While Axiom and SpaceX vie against different backstage entities successful the nascent abstraction economy, "we judge successful having an ecosystem and tons of radical moving together," SpaceX's Reed said. "In bid to bash that, you person to person large connection and large partnerships... It's a contention to person tons of providers, but it's not a contention to get radical safely to abstraction oregon get cargo safely to space. The constituent is to person america each beryllium successful."

Axiom, SpaceX and NASA teams person been collaboratively preparing for each facet of the mission.


The Ax-1 unit successful Johnson Space Center training.

Axiom Space

"Everything from figuring retired what minimum level of grooming is required for a time successful the beingness of ISS, to what to bash to get trained connected the payload facilities," Dana Weigel, NASA's ISS lawman programme manager, said to reporters. "All onboard activities are new, including integration with our planetary partners -- it's been a ample squad effort to get acceptable for it."

Typically, NASA spends years preparing astronauts to unrecorded and enactment aboard the ISS. 

"Our unit members spell done 2 years of archetypal grooming erstwhile we archetypal prime them and past they spell done disconnected and connected grooming passim the years, and past yet it culminates successful intensive, flight-specific grooming for a twelvemonth and a half," Weigel said. 

On the different extremity of the spectrum, "space tourists" who person visited the ISS successful the past required precise small training. "Their involvement is usually successful 2 antithetic things," Weigel said, "to get large photos retired of the window, and the different is utilizing email... They don't request to train, they don't request to recognize a lot. This is wholly different."

Working connected the ISS

Once the Axiom unit is connected committee the ISS, they volition behaviour much than 25 antithetic experiments, tailored to the unit members' interests and affiliations. 

For instance, Connor, the Ax-1 ngo pilot, is moving connected probe projects arsenic a spouse of the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic. Conner has helped money probe astatine some institutions for overmuch of the past decade. On behalf of the Mayo Clinic, helium volition supply information connected abstraction travel's interaction connected senescent cells (cells that person stopped dividing) and bosom health. In concern with the Cleveland Clinic, Conner volition acquisition pre- and post-mission high-resolution MRIs to survey the effects of the spaceflight situation connected spinal and encephalon tissue.

Pathy, meanwhile, volition behaviour probe connected behalf of the Montreal Children's Hospital, Canadian Research Universities and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. His projects see the archetypal in-space objection of two-way holoportation – a mixed world app for peculiar lenses that receives two-way 3D projections arsenic a hologram to pass betwixt users remotely. Pathy besides plans to pb Earth reflection activities to assistance analyse the interaction of clime change, urbanization, and different factors connected the ecology and quality habitation of North America.

Stibbe is conducting probe connected behalf of the Ramon Foundation and successful collaboration with the Israel Space Agency successful the Israeli Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology.

The unit volition besides behaviour Ax-1-specific experiments, including TESSERAE Ax-1, which volition trial an autonomous, self-assembling robotic swarm of tiles successful microgravity. The survey volition assistance measure the feasibility of the operation of satellites and abstraction habitats successful orbit, which would assistance enactment aboriginal missions to the Moon and Mars arsenic good arsenic abstraction tourism successful low-Earth orbit. 

Looking ahead 

Looking astatine the bigger picture, the Ax-1 ngo volition show what's imaginable erstwhile backstage entities similar Axiom and SpaceX facilitate abstraction travel.

axiom-space-station-full-updated-renders-01.jpg Axiom Space

Axiom was formed successful bid to physique a commercialized abstraction presumption to regenerate the ISS erstwhile it's retired. The Ax-1 ngo is the archetypal of respective that volition pb to the 2024 motorboat of an Axiom habitation module that volition attach to the ISS. Six months later, Axiom volition motorboat a 2nd habitation module, past a research-focused module, past a powerfulness and thermal module. 

"We'll gradually physique retired that abstraction presumption betwixt 2024 to 2030 with the extremity of yet separating and providing the commercialized LEO [low-Earth orbit] destination of prime erstwhile ISS has been retired," Derek Hassmann, Axiom operations director, said to reporters. "We're going to show the capabilities Axiom brings to the array truthful that eventual modulation from ISS to the commercialized Axiom presumption is creaseless and efficient." 

From NASA's perspective, the Ax-1 ngo should connection important penetration into however champion to stimulate commercialized enactment successful space. 

"We cognize we're going to larn a batch from this mission," Angela Hart, NASA's commercialized LEO programme manager, said to reporters. "We're committed to proceed these aboriginal pirate astronaut missions."

NASA is presently finalizing its declaration with Axiom for the 2nd backstage astronaut mission, and they besides program to enactment retired a solicitation this twelvemonth for follow-on backstage astronaut missions. 

"Our extremity was to acceptable the barroom precise precocious and show to everyone progressive that this is simply a realistic happening to do, that it tin beryllium positive, impactful," Hassmann said, "and from Axiom's perspective, we privation to bash this respective much times."