Updated: Apr 8, 2022
Axiom sends former Chief NASA Astronaut and three private astronauts onboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon
Axiom Space; a Houston based aerospace firm, is expected to launch four people into space with SpaceX aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavor "C206" spacecraft on it's 3rd visit to the International Space Station, with a scheduled launch time of no earlier than Friday, April 8, 2022, at 15:17 UTC, Blasts-off from Kennedy Space Center Pad LC-39A in Florida. The carrier rocket will be Falcon 9 v1.2 FT Booster B1062.5 assigned for the mission "Ax-1" The weather is supporting 90% in favour of Launch Criteria.
The first stage B1062.5 is expected to land on the autopilot Drone-ship; A Shortfall of Gravitas, which will be stationed 500 km downrange from Cape Canaveral, deployed with support ships Doug (ASDS tug) and Spacecraft and Crew Recovery fleet; Shannon (previously Go Navigator) and Megan (previously Go Searcher) deployed at the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean recovery zones, off the coast of Florida.
The multinational crew of four consists of Commander Michael López-Alegría from the US/Spain, Pilot Larry Connor from the US, Mission Specialists; Eytan Stibbe from Israel and Mark Pathy from Canada. The quartet will be the first fully private crew to visit the International Space Station; previous private astronauts have flown as one or two individuals accompanied by government astronauts conducting a routine mission. Axiom has chosen, for each planned flight it organizes, to be led by a retired/former astronaut to increase comfort with the arrangement.
How much each passenger paid for the experience is not public knowledge. “We usually don't talk about the specific payments our customers make,” Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini said during the press conference.
To prepare for the 10-day mission, including ascent/descent eight aboard the ISS, each crew member completed training in safety, health, ISS systems, launch site operations, emergency protocols, and additional training for research and demonstration payloads. While on the station, Ax-1 astronauts will complete more than 25 science experiments and technology demonstrations. The Ax-1 mission is a groundbreaking mission for the Axiom Station of Axiom Space, the world's first upcoming commercial space station.
Ax-1 visit to Orbiting Laboratory
“This historic flight will mark a defining moment on the road to universal access to space. This will be just the first of many missions to the ISS from Axiom Space. The seat acquisition marks significant progress towards our goal, and we are pleased to partner with SpaceX in that direction” said Axiom Chief Executive Michael Suffredini, former head of the ISS program at NASA.
Axiom Space hopes they will be able to visit the Russian segment of the station during their stay on board. The announcement was made during a telephone briefing about the flight from the company's CEO. “We are working to ensure the entire station is accessible to our crew. As for the Russian segment, it depends on what will be included in the mission program. Professional astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who has already been there, knows the systems, and we hope this will convince our partners to give them the opportunity to visit the Russian segment,”
Ax-1 Crew Manifest and Research Experiments
Michael López-Alegría is the chief astronaut of Axiom Space and commander of the Ax-1 mission. He has flown four times into space, flown the shuttle missions STS-73, STS-92 and STS-113, and served as Commander of ISS Expedition 14, flying to the ISS aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft. He holds NASA records for most extravehicular activities (EVA) or “spacewalks” and cumulative EVA time (67 hours and 40 minutes). In 2021, he was inducted into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame. His work on the Ax-1 "draws on his experience in traditional space exploration to help usher in a new era of private manned spaceflight." Previously, López-Alegría was President of the Federation of Commercial Space Flights and served on various advisory boards and committees, including the NASA Advisory Board's Exploration and Human Operations Committee, the FAA's Commercial Space Transport Advisory Committee and is Chair of the ASTM International Committee on Commercial Space Flight. He is also the past president of the Association of Space Explorers. López-Alegría was born in Madrid, Spain, and emigrated to the United States with his family. His son Nicolas (Nico) López-Alegría is currently working on a documentary about his mission.
Larry Connor | Ax-1 Pilot
Larry Connor is an entrepreneur, non-profit activist investor and the Ax-1 Pilot. Through the Ax-1 mission, Connor will become the first private pilot to reach the ISS and the first human to reach the deepest ocean depths and outer space within one year. Connor's main area of research will be around the impact of space travel on senescent cells (cells that have irreversibly stopped dividing but haven't died) and heart health. This cell type has been linked to several age-related diseases. On Earth, Connor's research tends to focus on pre- and post-mission MRIs to study the effects of the spaceflight environment on spinal and brain tissue.
Mark Pathy | Ax-1 Mission Specialist
Mark Pathy is an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist as well as a Mission Specialist on Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission. Pathy is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Montreal-based MAVRIK, a privately-owned investment and financing company he founded that focuses on innovation and social impact. Through Ax-1 mission, Pathy will become Canada’s 2nd private astronaut and the 12th Canadian to go to space.
Pathy will work in partnership with six Canadian universities and two tech startups, including research into bi-directional holotransport – a mixed reality app for special lenses that has bi-directional 3D projections like a hologram to communicate. He will also conduct Earth observations, research Space Flight Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (a change in visual sharpness experienced by many astronauts) and other projects with different universities.
Eytan Stibbe | Ax-1 Mission Specialist
Eytan Stibbe (Hebrew; שטיב א) is an impact investor, philanthropist, and a mission specialist on the Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station. In collaboration with the Ramon Foundation, the Israel Space Agency, the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Education, Stibbe will fly to the ISS under the “Rakia” banner and the maxim "There is no dream beyond reach’’
Three of the four astronauts -- including Eytan Stibbe -- will wear a special electroencephalogram (EEG)-enabled helmet made by Brain.Space; The helmet, which has 460 airbrushes that connect to the scalp, and perform a number of tasks for 20 minutes a day, during which data will be uploaded to a laptop on the space station. The tasks include a "visual oddball" one that the company says has been effective in detecting abnormal brain dynamics. Similar studies using these tasks have been completed on Earth and after the mission, Brain.Space will compare the EEG data to see the differences in brain activity between Earth and space. It noted that such experiments are needed since long-term space exploration and "off-world living are within grasp."
NASA's Contract with Axiom Space
The NASA deal is just one part of the arrangement.
The agreement covers items such as food and water for the crew, astronauts' time to prepare the station for the spacecraft's visit and other costs associated with the accommodation, NASA and Axiom representatives said during a press conference.
The full text of the agreement has not been made available to the public.
The costs built into the deal were determined in 2019, when NASA first announced that it would be willing to host up to two private astronaut flights to the station per year, each for up to 30 days.
At the time, NASA officials estimated that a visit could cost about $35,000 a day.
The Ax-1 will be the only mission to fly at these 'bargain fees'.
At the end of last April, NASA update its prices for visits to the space station.
Under the new policy; cargo, food, and supply charges for the same mission would be more than $2.5 million at the lower end of the quoted cost ranges, plus $10 million in per-mission fees.
“We're seeing a lot of interest in private astronaut missions,” Angela Hart, Low-Earth orbit commercial development manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston, said during a news conference.
“Right now, demand outstrips what we really believe will be opportunities at the station,” she said, specifying that the lack of balance between supply and demand was the reason the agency updated its procedure for visiting trade missions in order to make it clear time on the space station “is a limited resource”.
The development of commercial destinations in Earth orbit is one of five elements of NASA's plan to open the Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. Other elements of the plan include efforts to make station resources and crew available for commercial use through a new pricing policy; allow private astronaut missions to the station; seek opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for Low-Earth orbit activities.
"Axiom's work to develop a 'commercial destination' in space is a critical step for NASA to meet its long-term needs for astronaut training, scientific research and in-orbit technology demonstrations," the NASA administrator said at the time. , Jim Bridenstine. "We are transforming the way the agency works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration."
The agency will continue to need low-orbit microgravity research and testing to enable future missions to the Moon and Mars, including the 'first woman and next man' arrival on the Moon with the Artemis III mission as part of the agency's lunar exploration.
Axiom is looking at ways to reduce the cost of building a private space station. CEO Michael Suffredini showed off his company's mockup of a toilet that can extract water from urine for reuse in space. It would cost about $3 billion, compared to the $100 billion it cost to build the International Space Station.
Ax-1 Mission Launch