UNITED STATES: Houston-based company Axiom Space has announced the launch date for its second-ever private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Ax-2 mission will launch on May 8, sending four people to the orbiting lab aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule named Freedom.
The mission will build on its predecessor, Ax-1, which sent an all-private astronaut crew to the ISS for the first time.
Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut employed by Axiom Space, who has spent 665 days in space, more than any other American, will command the Ax-2.
Two of the Ax-2 crewmates, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni, will make history by becoming the first Saudi Arabian astronauts to travel to the ISS, with Barnawi becoming the first Saudi woman ever to reach space.
The fourth crew member is investor John Shoffner, who will pilot the Ax-2. During the 10-day mission, the crew will conduct more than 20 research experiments, resulting in about 130 hours of national lab science.
Axiom Space plans to launch modules to the ISS in 2025, building up a private outpost that will detach and fly freely by the end of this decade.
The company aims to have this commercial station up and running before the ISS retires in 2030.
Axiom Space President and CEO Mike Suffredini said the company learned 200 lessons through its trials.
During the press conference, he said that space exploration is a process where one does several tests and understands what to do better next time.
The Falcon 9 rocket carrying Freedom and the Ax-2 crew will lift off at 10:43 p.m. EDT on May 8 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Freedom and its passengers will arrive at the ISS about 37 hours after launch, at 11:40 a.m. EDT on May 10.
Ax-2 will make history as the second-ever private astronaut mission to the ISS, and Axiom Space hopes it will pave the way for future commercial spaceflight endeavours.
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