The first mission to the International Space Station by Axiom: What you need to know

The crew of the Ax-1 inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The crew of the Ax-1 inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
Photo: SpaceX

On Friday, a SpaceX rocket will attempt to explode from the Kennedy Space Center with four civilians on board. It’s the first entirely private mission to the International Space Station, in what is poised to serve as a previous mission. Here’s what you need to know before this historic launch.

The crew of the Ax-1, which includes a retired NASA astronaut, will climb aboard the Crew Dragon capsule on April 8 and lift off at 11:17 a.m. EDT atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Should the mission go as planned, the mission, Operated by Houston-based Axiom Space, it will mark another significant milestone in the ongoing privatization of space. Here are five things you should know about the Ax-1 mission.

It is the first entirely private mission to the International Space Station

Last few years Inspiration4 مهمة mission He will go down in history as the first to send an entire private crew into space. The Ax-1 differs in that the four crew members – all private citizens – will spend time aboard the International Space Station. This has not been done before.

The closest thing, I suppose, was Russian film crew which spent 12 days aboard the International Space Station last year shooting scenes for a movie, but that mission, Soyuz MS-19, was not exclusively private, with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov as lead. The four men who will participate in this new mission are Michael Lopez Alegria from the United States and Spain, Larry Connor from the United States, Eitan Stipe from Israel and Mark Bathy from Canada.

Axiom did not respond to a question about how much, if any, crew members paid for their seats. A 2019 press release From the mentioned company, the price of private astronaut tickets is $ 55 million.

Axiom is a small company with big plans

Axiom Space, founded in 2016, had about 110 employees in February 2021, but it’s expanding and still is. plans To reach 1,000 workers by the end of 2024. The company has close ties with NASA. Michael Suffredini, the former director of the NASA ISS program, is the company’s CEO, and Charles Bolden, the former administrator of NASA, serves as an independent consultant.

Axiom has a long list of potential offerings, including training astronauts, managing private and national flights to the International Space Station, delivering in-orbit manufacturing capabilities, and developing space-based medical and life support systems, among other services related to exploration and marketing from space. Most importantly, the company has plans to build a private space station (more on this is just a few), which serves as a future cornerstone for its comprehensive offering.

Ax-1 is a children’s journey

Lopez Allegria, a former NASA astronaut and vice president of Axium, will command the Ax-1, while Connor, an entrepreneur and investor, will serve as the pilot. Lopez Allegria has traveled to space on four different occasions during his 20-year career at NASA, and is on the cusp of becoming the first astronaut in history to lead both a civilian and commercial human spaceflight mission. Pathai and Stipe, both investors, will serve as mission specialists.

Ax-1 crew (from left to right): Larry Connor, Michael Lopez Allegria, Mark Pathy and Eitan Stipe.

Ax-1 crew (from left to right): Larry Connor, Michael Lopez Allegria, Mark Pathy and Eitan Stipe.
picture: Axiom Space

The crew of the Ax-1 is all men, but former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson serves as the mission’s backup commander. On that note, Whitson is currently scheduled to take command of the Ax-2 mission, scheduled for early 2023.

This is an “introductory” assignment.

Axiom Describe Ax-1 as the “Introduction” of a special astronaut mission. It is the first of four proposed missions, all of which are considered a stepping stone for the company as it looks to build its own orbital position, dubbed Axiom Station. Construction of the terminal is scheduled to begin in 2024; A series of modules will be gradually added to the Harmony Node of the International Space Station. On the retirement From the International Space Station in 2030, the space station will detach from the outpost “to form the world’s first free-form, privately developed, internationally available space station – the central node of a near-future network of research, manufacturing and trade in low Earth orbit,” according to Axiom.

Photograph of the Axiom station attached to the ISS Harmony unit.

Photograph of the Axiom station attached to the ISS Harmony unit.
picture: Axiom Space

The crew of the Ax-1 will spend 10 days in space, eight of which will be aboard the American part of the International Space Station. The crew will conduct science experiments, carry out some commercial activities, and promote STEM education. The crew will have no time to waste, as they plan to conduct 25 different experiments in just 100 hours. Ground team stationed at Axiom Space Mission Control Center In Houston you will provide support around the clock.

The mission aims to bring us closer to space

The crew has partnered with several institutions to conduct a series of scientific and technological experiments and tests. Some of them carry important implications for humans living on Earth, but they are primarily geared toward enabling further space exploration. As explained by Axiom in A new version: “Data collected during the flight will influence the understanding of human physiology on Earth and in orbit as well as determine the utility of new technologies that can be used in future human and human spaceflights on Earth.”

Space helmet that supports EEG.

Space helmet that supports EEG.
Photo: the brain. outer space

A good example of this is EEG helmet, which will be tested and operated by the crew of the Ax-1. Working with Ben-Gurion University, the team will record and analyze brain signals in an effort to identify potential neurological differences in humans while working in space. Ultimately, the goal is to provide long-duration space missions with a comfortable, easy-to-use helmet and build an “accurate device for the daily measurement of astronauts’ competency,” according to the the brain. outer spacethe Israeli company behind the helmet.

The crew will also experiment with TESSERAE, or mosaic-clad electromagnetic space structures to explore adaptive and adaptable environments. This is futuristic stuff, as this technology could eventually lead to self-assembling satellites. Named after Roman mosaics, TESSERAE is designed to connect to create larger structures, such as rooms and parabolic mirrors. During Ax-1, the team will test prototypes capable of sensing the quality of bonds between tiles.

An image of the future self-assembled TESSERAE space station in orbit around Mars.

An image of the future self-assembled TESSERAE space station in orbit around Mars.
picture: MIT Space Exploration Initiative / TU Dortmund Fraunhofer

Collaborations involving Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and Montreal Children’s Hospital will study the effects of microgravity on aging, heart health, spinal and brain tissue, chronic pain and sleep disorders. The team will also “take advantage of the accelerated aging aspects of the microgravity environment to assess early cancer and cancer changes in tumor organelles,” and test a new air-purification system, among other tasks.

It all starts on Friday, weather permitting. It took a while, but we’ve fully entered an era where people – albeit very special individuals – can fly into low Earth orbit and use space as their personal playground and a place to do business. We hope they keep the rest of us in mind.

Do you have a tip or comment for me about the spaceflight industry? You can reach me at [email protected].

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