Axiom Space announced on January 26 that it had selected a crew for the first private mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The four-person crew includes a NASA veteran and three private paying customers.
The proposed Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) is slated to be launched aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon no earlier than January 2022. The four-person crew will remain aboard the US segment of the ISS for approximately eight days conducting research and undertaking “philanthropic projects.”
The crew of the Ax-1 will be made up of former NASA astronaut and Axiom vice president Michael López-Alegrí, who will serve as the flight’s commander, and paying customers Larry Connner from the United States, Mark Pathy from Canada, and Eytan Stibbe from Israel. Conner will act as the flight’s pilot and Pathy and Stibbe as mission specialists.
Much like a civil spaceflight, both López-Alegría and Connner have been assigned backups. Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who holds the record for the longest time spent in space by a NASA astronaut, will serve as backup commander, and John Shoffner as the backup pilot.
Before its 2022 launch, the Ax-1 mission will be subject to approval from NASA and its international partners. Axiom and NASA are currently working through a Basic Ordering Agreement that will enable private astronaut missions to the ISS.
Axiom intends to offer private missions to the ISS at a rate of two per year. While the company will at first utilize the US segment for its customers, it is currently working towards launching its first commercial space station module in 2024.
The Axiom space station modules will initially be attached to the Harmony node of the ISS. Once the ISS is retired, the modules will be separated becoming the first free-flying commercial space station in low Earth orbit.