CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — SpaceX will launch a former NASA astronaut and three paying customers on a trip to the International Space Station. That mission, called Ax-1, kicks off today (April 8)!
Today’s launch, which comes a few days later than expected after a delay from NASA’s Artemis 1 “wet dress rehearsal,” will mark the start of the first manned mission hosted by the Texas-based company. Axiom Space† Ax-1 will be launched on a 10-day mission to the space station commanded by former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría. The mission will also fly paying passengers Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe.
ax-1 launches today (April 8) at 11:17 a.m. EDT (1517 GMT) from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here on Florida’s Space Coast. The crew departs aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
You can follow the launch live here here on Space.com or directly from the SpaceX YouTube page (opens in new tab)† The live webcast will begin at approximately 7:55am EDT (1155 GMT).
Live updates: Ax-1 Private Mission to Space Station
Related: Axiom Space: Building an Alien Economy
The details: Ax-1
If today’s launch goes according to plan, the Ax-1 will dock at the space station tomorrow (April 9) at approximately 7:30 a.m. EDT (1130 GMT). The mission lasts a total of 10 days, of which eight days by the crew aboard the space station. This will be the first manned mission for Axiom Space and the first completely private mission to the station.
“When I was a kid I was so inspired by the early manned missions NASA had done in the first three [human spaceflight programs] — Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions,” said López-Alegría at a press conference ahead of the launch on April 1. an honor.”
“I can say without hesitation that we are ready to fly,” he added.
Ax-1 will carry López-Alegría and his three crew members to the orbiting laboratory. Prior to launch, the crew completed a pre-flight quarantine, something that is routine for all astronauts in companies and space agencies. This serves to protect all astronauts aboard the space station from any contamination that could be carried with the incoming spaceflies.
However, the three paying crew members, who reportedly paid around $55 million each for their seats, won’t be joyriding alone. They will carry supplies and science experiments to perform on the space station.
These experiments include a “brain headset” from an Israeli startup that aims to study how the brain responds to spaceflight and life in space, as well as other scientific equipment from the nonprofit Ramon Foundation. Mission Specialist Stibbe carries these experiments with him on behalf of the foundation, which he co-founded in memory of his friend, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia during the tragic end of the mission in 2003. Stibbe will be the second Israeli to reach orbit; Ramon was the first.
Axiom’s Ax-1 mission is a major first for the company, but it’s part of a much larger plan to create a commercial space station in orbit. The company has already started construction of what it says will be the world’s first commercial space station.
Axiom plans to launch its first module to the ISS in 2024 and send several more in the coming years. These modules will eventually detach from the ISS and become Axiom’s free-flying station in orbit, the company said.
Why the delay?
The mission’s launch was delayed from April 6 to April 8, likely due to delays in NASA’s Artemis 1 wet dress rehearsal. The wet dress, which is essentially a rehearsal for the launch, including the full fueling of the rocket and the countdown, as well as a host of other steps to ensure the actual launch day goes according to plan, encountered problems on the trail, the moving the refueling portion of the test from April 3 to April 4.
“Inspections after the second test showed that the vent valve that forbade the team from continuing to charge liquid hydrogen was physically configured in a closed position, preventing it from being sent remotely to an open position. The valve positioning has since been corrected. .” NASA said in a statement: (opens in new tab)†
While testing activities continued on those two days, the testing was further delayed and on April 5, mission team members announced in a press conference that the Axiom launch would go ahead and Artemis 1 activities would resume after launch.