Axiom Space has announced that it has signed an agreement with SpaceX to launch commercial astronauts aboard Crew Dragon spacecraft.
In a March 5 press release, Axiom Space announced the agreement with SpaceX for the first of what the company hopes will be many missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
“This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space,” said Axiom CEO, Michael Suffredini. “This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space.”
Currently scheduled to be launched in the second half of 2021, the flight will carry a professionally trained Axiom mission commander and three private astronauts. Customers will experience two days in transit and at least eight days aboard the ISS.
The Axiom mission to the ISS is the first of the company’s proposed “precursor missions” to the station outlined in its Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA. It hopes to offer up to two of these missions per year while the company constructs its own modules that are set to be added to the station in 2024.
Once the ISS reaches its retirement date, the Axiom modules will be detached and operate independently as a free-flying commercial space station. It is expected that once this occurs, the station will be crewed continuously
Although the ISS has hosted private astronauts in the past, the Axiom mission will be the first to operate a service to and from the station all but independent from any national space program.
“Now, thanks to Axiom and their support from NASA, privately crewed missions will have unprecedented access to the space station, furthering the commercialization of space and helping usher in a new era of human exploration,” said SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell.
Axiom has not yet revealed how much a ticket aboard the company’s maiden mission will cost. However, the company has indicated that the coast will include a seat aboard the Crew Dragon, training, hardware development, mission planning, life support, crew provisions, medical support on-orbit operations, hardware and safety certifications, and overall mission management.