Axiom-2, SpaceX’s second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station for Axiom Space and NASA, is “going” for launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule this weekend.
During Monday’s lengthy flight readiness review, leaders from all three organizations met to confirm flight hardware, a four-man crew, and launch and landing sites are ready to support the 10-day mission. The Liftoff was set for 5:37 p.m. EDT Sunday, May 21, from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.
“Today we had a review where we brought together team members from Axiom Space, SpaceX, and NASA to talk about the upcoming mission, and at the end of that review the whole team did a ‘go’ poll,” Ken Powerzox, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations, said during a news conference on Monday. Monday.
A weather report from the Space Force is expected for the launch on Thursday or Friday.
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What do you know about the Axiom-2 mission?
Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson He is the commander of Axiom-2 and joins him as a participant in private spaceflight John Shoffner And the Saudi astronauts, sponsored by the government, Ali Al-Qarni and Rayana Bernawi. The mission was contracted between NASA and Houston-based Axiom Space.
“Dragon ends up in a hangar waiting to be attached to a (Falcon 9) rocket and the rocket is ready to fly, (and) the platform is ready,” said William Gerstenmaier, SpaceX’s vice president of flight reliability. “We have dry clothes and a steady fire ahead of us on Friday. We’ve fully trained the crew; they’re ready to fly the Dragon to the station and now they’re also ready to come back to Earth.”
Spectators can expect a sonic boom a few minutes after liftoff as SpaceX, for the first time with a crewed mission, will target a booster landing in Landing Area 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. For previous human spaceflight missions, SpaceX has landed its boosters on a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
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“We’ve always had this kind of capability before, and we weren’t sure we’d always get the performance, but the number of Falcon flights we’ve taken allowed us to say that that performance is available and usable,” Gerstenmaier said. “Our plan will be standard for every crewed launch from From now on.”
After launch, the four-man crew will spend about one day in orbit catching up with the International Space Station before docking and spend eight days there experiencing what it’s like to work and live in orbit. Then they would return to land in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.
While in orbit, the multinational crew will conduct a selection of up to 20 experiments and a technology demonstration with a heavy focus on educational outreach. According to an axiom statement, this includes “a student art competition from space, educational kits, and participation in student-led projects with universities like MIT.”
When is the docking and backup launch opportunity?
If the Falcon 9 launches on Sunday, the Crew Dragon should arrive at the International Space Station at 9:30 AM EST on Monday, May 22nd.
“We’re looking forward to May 21st, and if we don’t (launch) by the 22nd, we’ll stop the Axiom-2 mission and shift our focus to the SpaceX CRS-28 mission,” said Joel Montalbano, International Space Station program manager at NASA. SpaceX’s next station cargo resupply mission scheduled to fly from KSC no later than Saturday, June 3.
If teams stop this weekend, future launches of the Axiom-2 mission should be scheduled to better fit the traffic-packed summer at the station, which includes the first crewed flight demonstration of the Boeing Starliner capsule in July and NASA’s Crew-7 mission with SpaceX later. .
Meet the private astronauts of Axiom-2
Whitson is the first woman to lead a private astronaut mission and is the only member of the four-person crew with prior spaceflight experience. She’s a veteran of spaceflight and, at 665 total days, holds the record for the most time spent in space by any American astronaut. It was collected during three long-duration missions with NASA.
“Space is really changing right now and I’m really excited to be a part of expanding humanity’s reach to this amazing frontier,” Sarah Leah Whitson said at a pre-launch press conference last month. “I actually feel very fortunate to have a very talented crew that not only met the training requirements for this mission, but exceeded them.”
After retiring from NASA in 2018, she joined Axiom Space as the company’s Director of Human Spaceflight. To prepare for special missions to space, I trained as a standby commander for the Axiom-1 mission, which launched last year and was led by Axiom’s vice president of business development and chief astronaut. Michael Lopez-Alegria. He is also a former NASA astronaut.
The only private spaceflight participant to pay for a seat on the Axiom-2 mission is John Shoffner. He is an entrepreneur, pilot, and STEM advocate who was born in Alaska and currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee. He will play the special mission pilot as he is a veteran pilot with 25 years and more than 8,500 hours of flying experience.
For last year’s Axiom-1 mission, three private spaceflight participants paid $55 million per seat. On Monday, Derek Hassmann, chief of mission integration and operations at Axiom, said that “the cost of sending humans and payloads into space is dynamic and complex” and did not disclose how much Shoffner paid for the trip.
Ali Al-Qarni and Rayana Barnawi, the second and third Saudi citizens to travel to space and the first to visit the International Space Station, are the first government-sponsored astronauts to fly on a special Axiom mission to the International Space Station.
Barnawi, the first Saudi female astronaut, works in a cancer research laboratory. Al-Qarni is a captain and fighter pilot with 12 years of experience in the Saudi Air Force.
“Ali, as a military pilot, brings a lot of practical discipline and intelligence to the mission and is always volunteering for additional testing,” Sarah Leah Whitson said last month. Rayana is going to be the first Saudi woman to fly in space, and she obviously has an important role as a role model, but her scientific background in breast cancer and stem cell research is really important to a lot of the investigations that we’ll be doing during the mission.
Al-Qarni and Barnawi are members of the Saudi Space Authority’s National Astronaut Program — unlike the first Saudi citizen to fly into space, Sultan bin Salman Al Saud, a payload specialist who flew on NASA’s space shuttle Discovery in 1985. That makes them Saudi government astronauts. Arabia and the first government-sponsored astronauts to fly on the Axiom mission.
“This mission is the second in our series of bold missions to the International Space Station,” Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space, said last month. “These are really steps for us and a process to get ready to build our space station.”
Axiom Space hopes to launch its first module late next year that will connect to the International Space Station. Another system would follow, and eventually, a power and cooling system. The multi-module Axiom Station is planned to detach to become a commercial free-flying destination in space before NASA retires the International Space Station in 2030.
“We will be able to work efficiently with NASA, and we will be able to work towards a smooth transition from the International Space Station to the Axiom Space Station when the International Space Station is retired,” Suffredini said.
Ahead of Sunday’s Axiom-2 launch, another SpaceX Starlink launch is expected at midnight from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station late this week. Liftoff is set sometime between midnight and 4 a.m. EST on Friday, May 19.
For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule. Find FLORIDA TODAY’s live launch coverage starting 90 minutes before liftoff at https://www.floridatoday.com/space/.
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Launching Sunday, May 21st:
- Company/Agency: SpaceX for NASA and Axiom Space
- rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
- location: Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center
- launch time: 5:37 p.m. EST
- a path: the Northeast
- weather: to be announced later on
- Landing: Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Station
- Live coverage: Starts 90 minutes before take-off at floridatoday.com/space
- on: SpaceX will launch NASA’s second private astronaut flight to the International Space Station under contract with Axiom Space. Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will lead the mission as Commander, and Special Space Flight Participant John Shoffner, Axiom-2 pilot, will be joined by mission specialists Ali Al-Qarni and Rayana Barnawi, the second and third Saudi citizens to travel to space, Rayana Barnawi. First to visit the International Space Station, on a 10-day mission to the orbiting laboratory.
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