Ax-2 Takes Off

Image: SpaceX

The second-ever commercial astronaut mission to the ISS has embarked on its journey.

Mission recap: Right on schedule at 5:37pm ET yesterday, the Axiom Mission 2 (aka Ax-2) crew of four successfully lifted off from KSC in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9. The crew included:

  • Commander Peggy Whitson, who holds the record for longest time spent in space by a woman or American
  • Pilot John Shoffner
  • Mission Specialist Ali AlQarni
  • Mission Specialist Rayyanah Barnawi

AlQarni and Barnawi will be the first Saudi astronauts to board the ISS, and Barnawi is the first Saudi woman in space. 

Axiom didn’t reveal how much Shoffner, AlQarni, and Barnawi paid for their tickets to space. For Ax-1, its first commercial astronaut flight launched in April 2021, the company charged $55M a pop.

The commercial astronaut era: Axiom is starting off launching its commercial astronaut flights to the ISS, but it’s got even bigger plans on the horizon. The company is working on building its own space station in LEO, in part through wide-reaching collaborations with NASA. 

  • Axiom won a $140M NASA contract in 2020 to attach a commercial habitable module to the ISS. That first habitation module, Axiom Hab 1, is currently targeting launch in 2025.
  • The company is also one of the agency’s next-generation spacesuit suppliers, and recently revealed its design.

Looking ahead…As of this writing, the crew has nearly reached the station and is scheduled to dock in a few minutes, at 9:16am ET. They’ll remain on the station for 8 days, completing a jam-packed schedule of science experiments, then undock on May 30 for splashdown on the 31st, completing the 10-day mission.