Private Astronaut Missions to the ISS Delayed; Launch Dates Targeted
NASA and Axiom Space have announced that they are coordinating launch dates for the next two private astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS). However, a delay has pushed back the launch of the third private astronaut mission, Ax-3, which is now targeting a launch date no earlier than January. The initial plan was to launch in November 2023, but the delay is necessary to allow teams to collaborate on the integration of the mission’s scientific research priorities.
Meanwhile, the fourth private astronaut mission, Ax-4, is targeting a launch date no earlier than November next year. Both missions will be launched to the ISS aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules on Falcon 9 rockets from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Ax-4 mission includes provisions for the crew’s two-week stay on the ISS, with contingency supplies in case of any delays.
During these private astronaut missions, individuals on Axiom’s missions will handle science investigation equipment and stow experiments aboard their Dragon spacecraft to be returned to NASA. Private astronauts undergo rigorous training with NASA, SpaceX, and other partners in preparation for their flights. However, the crew for Ax-4 is yet to be selected by Axiom and approved by NASA.
Axiom Space is proud to be the first company to conduct privately-crewed missions to the ISS, marking a shift in NASA’s approach to low Earth orbit research. These missions play a crucial role in paving the way for NASA’s transition beyond ISS operations. In fact, Axiom Space is already preparing for a private orbital station to follow the retirement of the ISS.
The primary goals of these private astronaut missions are to expand commercial space activities, increase access to space, and develop knowledge and experience for living and working in microgravity. As part of these efforts, Ax-1 successfully launched on April 8, 2022, followed by Ax-2 in May 2023, both carrying private crews to the ISS.
The specific launch dates for Ax-3 and Ax-4 are still undetermined and depend on other traffic at the space station. Nevertheless, Axiom Space and NASA are working diligently to ensure the success of these groundbreaking missions that further humanity’s exploration and understanding of space.