The first private team of astronauts has been sent to the International Space Station (ISS). They will leave on Sunday to return to Earth. This concludes a two-week-long science mission that was hailed as a landmark in commercial spaceflight.
At 9 p.m., the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying four members of the team from Houston-based startup Axiom Space will depart the International Space Station. ET (0100 GMT Monday), the capsule orbits 250 miles (420km) above Earth Descent, on the return trip that takes 16 hours.
Axiom astronauts donned black and white helmets as they closed the hatch to the space station’s hatch just before 7:30 PM. ET (2330 GMT): This is ahead of the final decoupling procedure. A NASA webcast shows.
If everything goes according to plan, Endeavour, the Dragon spacecraft will reach the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s coast at around 1 p.m. ET (1700 GMT), Monday.
Due to weather conditions in the splashdown area, the return flight was delayed several days. This left the Axiom crew in orbit much longer than originally planned.
Spanish-born Michael Lopez Alegria, Axiom’s vice-president of business development, leads the multinational team. Larry Connor, a 72-year-old technology entrepreneur and aerobatic flight pilot from Ohio, is his second in command.
Eytan, a 64-year old investment philanthropist and ex-Israeli fighter pilot, and Mark Pathy, a 52-year old Canadian businessman/philanthropist, complete the Ax-1 crew.
They launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on April 8. They spent two weeks aboard ISS with the station’s seven regular government-paid employees: three American astronauts; one German cosmonaut; and three Russian cosmonauts.
The Axiom four formed the first all-commercial spacecraft launch team. They brought equipment to perform two dozen science experiments in orbit.
SpaceX and Axiom NASA are promoting the mission as a turning-point in the commercial expansion private space funding. They also plan to create what industry insiders refer to as the “low Earth orbit economy” (or simply the “LEO economy”)
SpaceX’s sixth spaceflight crewed by humans is Ax-1. It follows four NASA missions to the International Space Station in almost two years and September’s Inspiration4 flight.
SpaceX, the private rocket firm founded by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc., has signed a contract to fly three additional Axiom astronauts into the International Space Station in the next two-years. Task. The cost of this trip is still very high.
Axiom costs customers $50m to $60m per seat, according to Mo Islam (director of research at investment firm Republic Capital), which holds shares in Axiom, SpaceX and other companies.
NASA selected Axiom in 2020 to construct a new commercial facility at the space station. The 15-nation consortium, including Russia and the United States has been operating for over 20 years. When the rest of the station retires around 2030, plans call for the Axiom section to replace it.