TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The first all-private mission to the International Space Station lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 11:17 am Friday morning.
Axiom Space is a private spaceflight company and has contracted SpaceX to launch three paying private citizens and one former NASA astronaut on a 10-day mission dubbed Axiom-1. The Space Force gives a 90% chance of favorable weather for Friday’s launch.
During the 10-day mission, the four astronauts will conduct research alongside the current space station crew members. The mission is not only approved by NASA, but is welcomed under the commercial crew program.
“We are excited to see more people have access to spaceflight through this first private astronaut mission to the space station,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters. “One of our original goals with the Commercial Crew Program, and again with our Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development Program, is that our providers have customers other than NASA to grow a commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.”
Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria this is just the first step in opening opportunities for everyone to go to space. He said, “We have to start somewhere. And you go back a century ago when people would just were starting to fly in commercial airplanes, same kind of thing, only the very wealthy were able to do it. Now look who can fly in an airplane..”
NASA’s long term goal is a low-earth orbit marketplace where NASA is just one of many customers, with the private sector leading the way, helping to keep costs low.
Ax-1 blasted off in the crew dragon capsule Endeavour. This is the third flight of this spacecraft after it launched Demo-2 with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in May 2020. Endeavour also launched Crew-2 carrying four astronauts to the ISS in April 2021. This is also be the fifth flight of the first stage booster launching the Ax-1 crew.
The crew will be docked to the ISS for 8 of their 10-day mission. After they splashdown back on earth, NASA and SpaceX will quickly turn around and launch Crew-4 April 21st as part of the NASA’s regular crewed rotations to the ISS.