BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Update:
SpaceX and Axiom Mission 2 launch successfully sent four astronauts into space.
The second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station is on target for a Sunday afternoon liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center.
The four-member crew will spend eight days docked at the ISS.
Axiom Space’s Director of Human Spaceflight Peggy Whitson –- a former NASA astronaut and ISS commander -- will lead the mission for the company.
Whitson has already spent 665 days in space -- more than any other American –- and she is now returning to the ISS as the first female commander of a private space mission.
Read: NASA picks Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for moon lander project
This will be the second-ever private mission to the ISS.
The four-person crew also includes pilot John Shoffner and specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi -- both Saudi nationals. Barnawi will be the first Saudi woman in space.
The crew will conduct more than 20 different experiments while aboard the ISS, including activities to help better understand human physiology on Earth as well as establish new technologies that could be used for future spaceflights.
Read: Red planet readiness: NASA to send crew into simulated Mars habitat for year
“It gives me a chance to demonstrate what I believe is the opportunity of space for everyone by showing what can be done by private and commercial space interests,” Shoffner said.
The company said it plans to build its own space station called Axiom Station.
“This Axiom Mission 2 is just a precursor for where we’re headed to,” Whitson said. “We want to be able to have a commercial space station. We plan to have the first module up in late 2025. And that will expand our capability to do commercial space.”
Read: ‘I would not want us to be there 2nd’: NASA administrator aims to beat China in the race to the Moon
Sunday’s launch is scheduled for 5:37 p.m. Click here to watch it live.
A backup opportunity for the launch will be available at 5:14 p.m. Monday.
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