CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — For the first time, SpaceX is preparing to launch private astronauts to the International Space Station.
The Axiom Space crew will spend a week aboard the station conducting their own experiments, and their commercial flight will be the first of many to come.
Axiom Mission 1 is set to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in February. Entrepreneur Larry Connor, former NASA astronaut and Axiom vice president Michael Lopez-Alegria and philanthropists Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe will lift off aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon on an eight-day mission.
“This will be the first fully private activity where there’s no one working for the government on the flight,” said Dale Ketcham with Space Florida. “It’ll be a lot like Inspiration 4, but this one is going to the International Space Station. They’re going to (have) some quality time there, take advantage of the research capabilities that the ISS provides.”
The private astronauts will perform about 25 experiments aboard the space station.
“There are some research objectives where they plan to use some of the ISS facilities, so they are getting additional training on those on the ground and will also get some assistance on board with those as well,” said Angela Hart, NASA program manager with the Commercial Low Earth Orbit Program Office.
The program said it will be purchasing some payload services from Axiom and the company will be paying for the costs associated with docking and coming aboard the station. Axiom also has an additional contract with NASA to create their own commercial modules that will dock on the ISS at some point.
It will be another major step forward toward the commercialization of low Earth orbit.
“It is very important to NASA as we move forward to the moon and Mars and move our sights to greater exploration objectives that we commercialize LEO and turn that portion of space over to the commercial market,” Hart said.