Axiom Space has successfully launched its AX-1 mission, which is taking the first fully private crew of astronauts to the International Space Station. The quartet departed from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a SpaceX Dragon capsule, which was propelled by a Falcon 9 rocket. Both the first stage and the Dragon separated without issue.
The spacecraft is expected to dock at the ISS on April 9th at around 6:45AM ET. The hatch opening is scheduled for approximately 9:30AM and, all going well, the welcoming ceremony will happen at around 10:05AM.
The crew members are commander and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría and three businessmen: Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy. The foursome are due to spend eight days on the ISS, during which they'll take part in scientific research, outreach and commercial activities. They will also retrieve some scientific samples for NASA.
Axiom plans to conduct further private missions to the ISS over the next several years. The company has a contract with NASA to build the first commercial module for the space station. It's also expected to construct a module (SEE-1) containing a film studio and sports arena, which could be attached to the ISS as soon as December 2024. Axiom Station (with SEE-1 still connected) is scheduled to split from the ISS in 2028 and operate independently.