How To Watch SpaceX Launch The First All-Commercial Crew To The Space Station

SpaceX and Houston-based company Axiom Space are gearing up to make history by launching four civilians to the International Space Station on Friday. The mission is the first NASA-approved all-commercial flight to the International Space Station — an important step in a government effort to encourage private sector development at the high frontier.

The crew of four is led by mission commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut and now a vice president at Axiom Space. He is joined on board by three entrepreneur-philanthropists: American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe. They are ready to explode from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:17 a.m. EDT Friday.

How to watch the launch of SpaceX

  • What: SpaceX Launches First All-Commercial Crew to International Space Station
  • Date: Friday, April 8, 2022
  • Time: Scheduled at 11:17 a.m. EDT
  • Place: The Kennedy Space Center, Florida
  • Online Stream: Live on CBS News in the video player above and on your mobile or streaming device

“Weather is 90% favorable for launch,” SpaceX tweeted Friday morning.

The Axiom 1 mission, or Ax-1 for short, marks the sixth pilot launch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. It is the second fully commercial flight into orbit – after the privately funded Inspiration4 mission last September — and the first all-commercial visit to the International Space Station.

“This really looks like a government NASA mission from the outside. The difference is that it’s a private company and these are private customers. And this is a real turning point in human spaceflight,” López-Alegría told CBS News senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann.

Over the past two decades, 11 private astronauts, or “space tourists,” have visited the space station under commercial agreements with the Russian space agency, but all were accompanied by professional cosmonauts. The crew of the Ax-1 is the first fully commercial, non-governmental flight to the station and the first to be approved by NASA.

Opening the space station to commercial use is part of NASA’s effort to facilitate private sector operations in low Earth orbit and to promote the development of commercially operated research stations after the ISS is retired in the time frame of 2030.

So far, Axiom Space has booked four private astronaut missions through SpaceX and is designing modules that will be attached to the station for commercial use. Before the lab retires, a solar power and cooling system will be added so the Axiom modules can be disconnected to fly on their own as an independent outpost.

“This is a historic mission for two reasons,” said Mike Suffredini, CEO of Axiom, a former NASA space station program manager. “This is the first completely private mission to the International Space Station. In addition, Axiom Space has been established to build a commercial space station, the first module will be launched in just over two years.

“But this is our first-ever mission of probably hundreds of missions to come in the coming decades as we build the Axiom space station and provide services in low Earth orbit for many decades.”

The crew of the Axiom-1 during training at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California (left to right): Larry Connor, Mission Commander Michael López-Alegría, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe.

Axiom Space

Assuming a timely launch, the capsule will make an automated 20-hour rendezvous and approach to the space station, docking at the forward Harmony module’s space-facing port around 7:45 a.m. Saturday.

The crew of the Axiom-1 plans to spend just over a week aboard the lab complex conducting a variety of commercially sponsored biomedical experiments, technology demonstrations and outreach before disconnecting and returning to Earth with a dive into the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, depending on the weather.

Meet the crew

Michael Lopez-Alegria is a veteran of four spaceflights, including an extended stay on the station, and logged a total of 257 days off the planet before retiring from NASA in 2012. He received a refresher course for the Ax-1 mission and serves as a mentor to his rookie crew members.

Larry ConnorAn experienced private pilot, is a “nonprofit activist investor” and founder of the Connor Group, a real estate investment firm that manages $3.5 billion in assets. He is an aerobatic pilot, off-road racer and mountaineer.

Mark Pathy is an investor/philanthropist, chairman and CEO of a Montreal-based investment and financing company.

Eytan Stibbe flew F-16 jets in the Israeli Air Force and later served in the reserves while building a successful business career. On active duty, he served under Ilan Ramon, who later became the first Israeli in space, but lost his life in the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003.

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