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Ax-2 private astronaut mission concludes with splashdown

Dragon C202.2 'Freedom' brought back four astronauts after 10 days in orbit

Pilot boats prepare the spacecraft to be lifted by the recovery ship "Megan",

The Crew Dragon C202.2 Freedom spacecraft leased by Axiom Space landed at dawn today – May 31, 2023 – in the Gulf of Mexico, near Panama City. The returning crew officially concluded the second fully private mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The Ax-2 crew included Director of Human Spaceflight and Axiom Space Commander Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, (paying) pilot John Shoffner, and mission specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi of the Saudi Space Commission. (SSC) of the inaugural class of Saudi astronauts.

The Ax-2 crew spent eight days aboard the ISS, orbiting Earth 126 times. During the mission, the crew performed more than twenty experiments (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) and served as research objects to better understand the impacts of microgravity on the human body, as well as established methods for the usefulness of new technologies that could be used for future space flights.

The mission made history on many fronts. It was the first commercial featuring private, government-sponsored astronauts. Peggy Whitson is now the first female commander of a private space mission, adding to her achievement as the first female ISS commander and the record for the longest cumulative time in space by a US astronaut (674 days). Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi were the first Saudi astronauts to visit the ISS – and Rayyanah was the first Saudi woman to go into space. In addition, John Shoffner became the first person from the US state of Alaska to fly into space. The cost of the flight for each member of the Axiom mission is estimated at $55 million.

Axiom Space is the only orbital mission provider in the American commercial space industry, conducting end-to-end manned missions to the International Space Station. According to the company, “…Axiom Space's broad range of services include private astronaut training and flying, access to training facilities and instructors, equipment and safety certification, and in-orbit operational management. Flight candidates complete the rigorous Axiom Space training curriculum over many months in preparation for living and conducting meaningful work in space.”

ISS Expedition-69 and Ax-2 crew

Ax-2 mission launch statistics

  • 1st flight of Falcon 9 B1080 first stage core

  • 2nd flight of the Crew Dragon C212 Freedom

  • 2nd SpaceX manned mission launch this year

  • 8th rocket landing on land this year

  • 9th Crew Dragon crewed mission to the ISS

  • Crew Dragon's 10th manned launch

  • 11th orbital flight of this type of spacecraft

  • 27th successful landing on the LZ-1 platform

  • SpaceX's 34th launch this year

  • 34th person delivered by the company to the ISS

  • the 38th person launched by SpaceX into orbit

  • 43rd successful landing of a booster on land

  • 65th company launch of the LC-39A platform

  • 120th consecutive successful stage landing

  • 194th successful first-stage landing overall

  • Company's 204th consecutive successful planned mission

  • 226th Falcon 9 launch

  • 237th SpaceX launch.

  • 1st land landing of a rocket on a SpaceX manned mission

  • 1st flight of astronauts from Saudi Arabia on Crew Dragon

  • 1st flight of state astronauts as part of an Axiom mission

  • 6th orbital flight by an astronaut from an Arab country

  • 1st space flight by a female astronaut from Saudi Arabia (Rayana Barnavi)

  • 1st Female Commander of a Private Manned Mission (Peggy Whitson)

  • 2nd private manned mission to the ISS

  • 2nd Axiom mission by SpaceX

  • Astronaut Peggy Whitson's 4th Space Flight

  • 600th astronaut in the world – Rayana Barnavi The shortest flight time by a Crew Dragon spacecraft to the ISS is 15 hours and 35 minutes.

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