Axiom Space has successfully launched its first-ever Ax-1 (Axiom Mission 1) crew to orbit on Friday morning.
The all-private astronaut crew aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket are traveling to and from the International Space Station in a Dragon spacecraft, according to Axiom Space.
The liftoff was at 10:17 a.m. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
See the full launch below:
The private Axiom Space company arranged the visit with NASA for its three paying customers: Larry Connor of Dayton, Ohio, who runs the Connor Group; Mark Pathy, founder and CEO of Montreal’s Mavrik Corp.; and Israel’s Eytan Stibbe, a former fighter pilot and founding partner of Vital Capital.
Before the launch, their enthusiasm was obvious: Stibbe did a little dance when he arrived at the rocket at Kennedy Space Center.
SpaceX and NASA have been upfront with them about the risks of spaceflight, said Lopez-Alegria, who spent seven months at the space station 15 years ago.
“There’s no fuzz, I think, on what the dangers are or what the bad days could look like,” Lopez-Alegria told The Associated Press before the flight.
Each visitor has a full slate of experiments to conduct during their nine to 10 days there, one reason they don’t like to be called space tourists.
“They’re not up there to paste their nose on the window,” said Axiom’s co-founder and president, Michael Suffredini, a former NASA space station program manager.
The three businessmen are the latest to take advantage of the opening of space to those with deep pockets. Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin is taking customers on 10-minute rides to the edge of space, while Virgin Galactic expects to start flying customers on its rocket ship later this year.
Friday’s flight is the second private charter for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which took a billionaire and his guests on a three-day orbit ride last year.
Axiom is targeting next year for its second private flight to the space station. More customer trips will follow, with Axiom adding its own rooms to the orbiting complex beginning in 2024. After about five years, the company plans to detach its compartments to form a self-sustaining station — one of several commercial outposts intended to replace the space station once it’s retired and NASA shifts to the moon.
At an adjacent pad during Friday’s launch: NASA’s new moon rocket, which is awaiting completion of a dress rehearsal for a summertime test flight.
As a gift for their seven station hosts, the four visitors are taking up paella and other Spanish cuisine prepared by celebrity chef José Andrés. The rest of their time at the station, NASA’s freeze-dried chow will have to do.
The automated SpaceX capsule is due back with the four on April 19.
Connor is honoring Ohio’s air and space legacy, taking up a fabric swatch from the Wright brothers’ 1903 Kitty Hawk flyer and gold foil from the Apollo 11 command module from the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta.
Only the second Israeli to launch to space, Stibbe will continue a thunderstorm experiment begun by the first — Ilan Ramon, who died aboard shuttle Columbia in 2003. They were in the same fighter pilot squadron.
Stibbe is carrying copies of recovered pages of Ramon’s space diary, as well as a song composed by Ramon’s musician son and a painting of pages falling from the sky by his daughter.
“To be a part of this unique crew is a proof for me that there’s no dream beyond reach,” he said.