This morning, at 11:17 AM EDT (08:17 AM PDT), the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Designated Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), this mission consists of four commercial astronauts flying aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft that launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The launch was live-streamed via NASA’s official Youtube channel (you can catch the replay here).
The crew of the Ax-1 mission, Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, and Eytan Stibbe, will spend over a week aboard the ISS conducting scientific research, outreach, and commercial activities. Upon arrival, they will be welcomed by Expedition 67 crew members, consisting of NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron, ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsokov, and Denis Matveev.
As NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a recent NASA press release:
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“What a historic launch! Thank you to the dedicated teams at NASA who have worked tirelessly to make this mission a reality. NASA’s partnership with industry through the commercial cargo and crew programs has led our nation to this new era in human spaceflight — one with limitless potential. Congratulations to Axiom, SpaceX, and the Axiom-1 crew for making this first private mission to the International Space Station a reality.”
The Endeavor spacecraft will autonomously dock with the Harmony module at around 07:45 AM EDT (04:45 PDT). This will be followed by a welcome ceremony, which is expected to start shortly after the Dragon hatch opens at about 09:30 AM EDT (06:30 PDT) on Saturday (April 9th). These events will be broadcast live on NASA’s website, NASA Television, the NASA app, and Axiom’s website. Coverage will begin at 05:30 AM EDT (02:30 AM PDT) and will end with the conclusion of the ceremony.
The Axiom commercial astronauts are expected to spend about ten days in orbit, eight of which will be spent aboard the ISS. During this time, they will conduct more than 25 scientific research experiments and technology demonstrations, which will provide vital data in preparation for Axiom Station. This proposed facility will be the world’s first commercial space station, which may be joined by Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef and the Gateway Foundation’s Voyager space station.
The crew will return to Earth on April 19th, and the mission will end with splashdown at one of seven landing sites off the coast of Florida. The farewell event and the return will be live broadcast separately by NASA and Axiom. As Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space, expressed:
“I first want to congratulate Michael, Larry, Eytan, and Mark. We will usher in a new era in private human spaceflight when they cross the threshold to enter the International Space Station. This journey is the culmination of long hours of training, planning, and dedication from the crew and the entire Axiom Space team, our partners at SpaceX, and of course, a credit to NASA’s vision to develop a sustainable presence in low-Earth orbit.”
Further Reading: NASA