American space infrastructure developer Axiom Space, Inc. has been selected to lead the next private astronaut mission to the International Space Station.
Announcing this, NASA said it has signed a mission order with Axiom Space for the third private astronaut mission to the ISS, targeted to launch no earlier than November from the U.S. space agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“NASA’s commercial crew flights to the space station for our government astronauts paved the way for fully private missions to space like Inspiration4 and Polaris as well as private astronaut missions to the orbiting laboratory like the one we are announcing today,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) is expected to spend 14 days docked to the space station. A specific launch date is dependent on spacecraft traffic to the space station and in-orbit activity planning and constraints. NASA and Axiom Space mission planners will coordinate in-orbit activities for the private astronauts to conduct in coordination with space station crew members and flight controllers on the ground.
“Axiom Space’s selection to lead the next private astronaut mission to the International Space Station enables us to continue expanding access to nations, academia, commercial entities, and emerging industries to research, test, and demonstrate new technologies in microgravity,” said Michael Suffredini, CEO and president of Axiom Space. “As NASA’s focus shifts back to the Moon and on to Mars, we are committed to transforming low-Earth orbit into a global space marketplace, where access to space moves beyond the partners of the space station to nations, institutions and individuals with new ideas fueling a thriving human economy beyond Earth.”
Axiom Space will submit four proposed crew members and two back up crew for the Ax-3 mission to the station’s Multilateral Crew Operations Panel for review. NASA is requiring all private astronaut mission providers to select a previously flown NASA astronaut as the spacecraft commander. Following review and approval from NASA and its international partners, the prime crew members for the mission will be named.
The Ax-3 crew members will train for their flight with NASA, international partners, and SpaceX, which Axiom Space has contracted as launch provider for transportation to and from the space station and to familiarize the private astronauts with systems, procedures, and emergency preparedness for the space station and the Dragon spacecraft. Based on current mission planning, team crew training is scheduled to begin this spring.
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