SpaceX’s second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Axiom-2, also known as Ax-2, sponsored by Axiom Space, received launch clearance from NASA on May 15, followed by a seal of approval from Mother Nature 19 May and finally completion of the Launch Readiness Review (LRR) on May 20th. Launch is currently scheduled for May 21 at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2:37 p.m. PDT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A Launch site for all manned Apollo-Saturn V launches beginning with Apollo 8, along with Skylab, dozens of space shuttle launches and, as of 2017, SpaceX.
“Today we had a review where we brought together members of the team from Axiom Space, SpaceX and NASA to talk about the upcoming mission and at the end of that review the whole team voted ‘go’,” said Ken Bowersox . NASA’s Deputy Administrator for Space Operations, during the May 15 press conference.
The Ax-2 crew of four consists of a diverse group of US and Saudi Arabian astronauts with a wide range of scientific and flight experience both on Earth and in space. Their mission duration is 10 days on the ISS, where they will conduct various scientific, commercial and public activities aboard the football field-sized orbiting platform.
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Ax-2 Commander Dr. Peggy Whitson is the only crew member with spaceflight experience, but she has a groundbreaking track record and records during her time as a NASA astronaut. dr Whitson joined NASA’s group in 1996 and holds the record for most days spent in space by an American astronaut (665), most spacewalks by a woman (10) and first woman to command the ISS (Expedition 16 December 2007). ). . After retiring from NASA in June 2018, she became a consultant for Axiom Space and will now have the honor of being the first woman to lead a private space mission.
Axiom 2 Commander, Dr. Peggy Whitson. (Credit: Axiom Space/Jenn Duncan)
Ax-2 pilot John Shoffner is a lifelong space enthusiast and proponent of STEM education, and the only non-governmental crew member on Ax-2 to pay for his seat on the mission. Shoffner has been flying since he was 17 and has more than 8,500 flight hours under his belt. He has also performed more than 4,000 skydives with his wife Janine, whom he met while skydiving in 1999. As a compliment for his successful flight and skydiving career, Shoffner is also a successful life athlete having competed in motor sports, water skiing and cycling, among others. His seat at Ax-2 is funded by his success as a businessman, having founded and led several start-ups throughout his career.
Axiom 2 Pilot: John Shoffner. (Credit: Axiom Space/Jenn Duncan)
Ax-2 Mission Specialist Ali Alqarni is a Captain in the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) and has nearly 2,400 flight hours on the F-15S, T-38, T-6 and Cessna 172. After a visit to NASA Working at the Johnson Space Center during his time with the RSAF during his US Air Force training, Alqarni became passionate about space and was selected by the Saudi Space Commission as the first astronaut in the Saudi National Astronaut Program . Alqarni is a successful athlete with experience in mountaineering and bungee jumping, as well as numerous survival training and military deployments.
Axiom 2 Mission Specialist, Ali Alqarni. (Source: Axiom Space)
Ax-2 Mission Specialist Rayyanah Barnawi makes history as the first Saudi woman to travel into space. She is a biomedical researcher with more than 10 years of experience in cancer stem cell research and was a research lab technician in the stem cell and tissue reengineering program at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Saudi Arabia when she was selected for Ax-2. Outside of research, Barnawi has extensive experience in the outdoors and as an athlete, having participated in hang gliding, scuba diving, hiking and rafting around the world. During her stay on the ISS, Barnawi will continue her work on breast cancer and stem cell research.
Axiom 2 Mission Specialist, Rayyanah Barnawi. (Source: Axiom Space)
On May 16, during their pre-mission quarantine, the Ax-2 crew discussed their experiences and enthusiasm for the mission in a press conference. dr Whitson noted how during their time in quarantine, the crew went over the mission’s schedules and procedures so that they were fully prepared for the mission before launch.
If launch is successful tomorrow, Ax-2 is scheduled to dock with the ISS at 9:30 a.m. EDT on May 22. If Ax-2 doesn’t make their first launch window, there will be a backup opportunity on May 22 and future launch date is uncertain if they are unable to fly this weekend.
“We’re looking at May 21st, and if we don’t launch it by the 22nd, we will be retiring from the Axiom-2 mission and concentrating on the SpaceX CRS-28 mission,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA Manager of the ISS program.
Ax-2 is not only the second private space mission to the ISS, but also comes one step closer to Axiom Space’s goal of building mankind’s first commercial space station. The first module is scheduled to be brought to the ISS in 2025 and will eventually reach orbit on its own as soon as other modules are connected.
For now, we wish Axiom-2 a safe and prosperous mission to the ISS as humanity continues its journey further and up to the stars!
As always, keep up the science and keep looking up!