Axiom-1, a new class of pioneer
Updated: Apr 30, 2022
April 8th at 11:17 AM Est from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center
Over the years we have seen several individual private citizens journey alongside astronauts to the ISS (International Space Station), even a Russian movie star spent time aboard last year while filming for a movie. One thing we have never seen though is about to happen. An all-private crew flying a spacecraft to space, then docking, and living aboard the space station. Axiom-1 will send four private space travelers on a ten-day voyage to the station where they will conduct science and push commercial spaceflight forward. After the launch it was stated that the ride cost each member of the crew a cool fifty-five million dollars.
Michael Lopez-Alegria, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, and Eytan Stibbe will fly to the orbital station using a SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule. These four, the first of many Axiom expects to ferry to the space station will work to distinguish themselves from your every day turn of the century space tourist. While on board they will conduct scientific research and perform experiments during their stay. Axiom is planning to send its own module to the ISS in 2024 where it will be used as a sort of space hotel, and also used as a place to conduct research and shoot movies as well.
In October of 2021, NASA and Axiom Space signed an order to all the first all private citizen flight to the International Space Station. “We are excited to see more people have access to spaceflight through this first private astronaut mission to the space station,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters. The proposed travels would have to b reviewed by NASA and its international partners, as is protocol for any space station crew, and undergo NASA medical qualification testing before being approved. Since they’ve been approved, the four men trained alongside NASA, international partners, and SpaceX to familiarize themselves with systems, procedures, and emergency readiness for the space station and the Dragon spacecraft. Over the last few weeks the crew, as with any other preparing for space flight has been in quarantine at the Kennedy Space Center.
Axiom-1’s commander, Michael Lopez-Alegria is a former NASA astronaut and the current vice president of business development for Axiom Space. He currently holds the record for the most extravehicular activities, at ten excursions, and the record for most time spent inside a space suit at 67 hours and 40 minutes. Lopez-Alegria has flown to space four times previously. Those missions, three of which using the Space Shuttle, STS-73, STS-92, STS-113. He was also the commander of Expedition 14 using a Russian Soyuz TMA-9. These achievements brought his induction to the NASA astronaut hall of fame back in 2020. Amongst other things Lopez-Alegria is a former president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a former member of the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council, and a former part of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Our pilot for the Axiom-1 mission is Larry Connor. His experience in more than sixteen different aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters made it the logical choice. His many accolades include winning five aerobatic competitions and participating in several U.S. National Aerobatic Championships. He is also familiar with racecar driving, which is like flying as it’s a high speed sport that demands careful attention and procedures. He totals seventy wins during his career while racing different types of vehicles. He is currently the CEO of The Connor Group, a real estate and technology investment, and has a reported 3.3 billion in assets under management. The Connor Group focuses on luxury apartment communities and has won several industry awards. Connor has also co-founded two financial technology companies. Larry Connor also has a philanthropic side to his life, The Connor Group Kids & Community partners aim to address general poverty and plans to spend 300 million in non-profit work over the next decade.
Serving as mission specialist, Mark Pathy the CEO and chair of MARVIK of Montreal, Canada. MARVIK performs investments in firms that focus on innovations, entrepreneurship and “responsible investing” in areas focused on food, agriculture, environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Pathy is also a chair on the board of Stingray Group Inc., a publicly traded music, media, and technology company in Montreal. He is also the former president and CEO of Fednav International, a dry bulk shipping company.
Our final team member, and mission specialist for Axiom-1, Eytan Stibbe. A founding partner of the Vital Capital Impact investment fund, a group that focuses on opportunities in under resourced countries and companies seeking gains in social and environmental metrics, along with competitive financial return. Stibbe was also an Israeli Air Force pilot and flight instructor at the Israel Air Force Flight Academy, flying thousands of hours in numerous aircraft. He served under the command of Ilan Ramon during the Gulf War where they became fast friends. Ilyan went on to became Israel’s first astronaut, and ultimately met a tragic end on the shuttle Columbia when the spacecraft burned up on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere in 2003. When Ramon’s son, Asaf died in 2009 during an IAF training accident, Stibbe and members of the Ramon family were among the co-founders of the Ramon Foundation, which promotes excellence in academics of aviation and space.
Today, just like the last three on Florida’s space coast the sun rose over two crew capable launch vehicles on adjacent launch pads for the first time since 2009. NASA’s Space Launch System, which rolled out for the first-time last month currently still sits on Launch Complex 39B where a Wet Dress Rehearsal will conclude after the Axiom-1 mission. Just over a mile away, on Launch Complex 39A resides a SpaceX Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon atop the company’s rocket. SpaceX, of course has been shuttling astronauts to and from the International Space Station over the last two years, and also sent the first all civilian crew to orbit last year as well. Today SpaceX has launched the first all private crew on a ten-day journey to the ISS. Once aboard the orbital station the crew will conduct science and push commercial spaceflight forward. Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, and Eytan Stibbe rode with Axiom Space, the Houston based company which is overseeing the mission.
Contracting SpaceX for the launch transportation and reaching agreements with NASA for the accommodations on the space station Axiom plans to launch a series of crewed missions into space and also plans to launch their own private module which will link up with the station in late 2024. Think hotel in space, and a movie shooting location as well. Axiom Space will eventually detach that module in the future where it will become the centerpiece of a standalone research lab that could be used by commercial customers, or even NASA.
Training in Houston as well as SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne California for their ten-day mission where eight of those days will be spent inside the ISS. These four will conduct science experiments and participate in educational and public outreach activities along with enjoying their time in orbit. With the four private customers, the occupational size of the space station will temporarily raise to eleven people. The Ax1 mission is planned to splashdown on April 18th of the cost of Florida. Just in time for NASA’s Crew-4 mission which will launch no earlier than April 21st and will carry three NASA astronauts and one Italian born European Space Agency astronaut for a nearly five-month mission as they switch out with those of the Crew-3 mission.
You can see from the photos that this Falcon 9 has made a few flights previously. B1062 is making its fifth trip to space now after carrying two U.S. military GPS satellites along with the four-person crew of Inspiration-4, and lastly it flew a Starlink mission back in January of this year. Crew Dragon Endeavor also is no stranger to spaceflight, this being its third journey after bringing Bob Behnken and Doug Hurly to orbit during the DM-2 mission where crewed spaceflight was returned to American soil.
Endeavour then flew the Crew-2 mission where it ended by landing in the Gulf of Mexico in November of 2021. It was then taken back to Dragon Land, or the place where SpaceX refurbishes their crew capsules. Refurbishments took longer than usual due to a large amount of leaked urine that became trapped under the Dragon’s floor when the urine collection system leaked due to a tube failure. SpaceX switched to welding the tube instead of simply gluing it to ensure this issue wouldn’t persist again.
Falcon 9 B1062 will fly northeast from Florida’s space coast to line up with the space station’s orbital track. Once the first stage booster separates from the crew capsule it will begin its descent back down to Earth were it’ll land on the SpaceX drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas positioned 500km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. This mission is the first private mission to the ISS along with a few other historic facts for those of us keeping up with Space history. It will be the first ever third launch of a Dragon2, the 147th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket, 87th with a flight proven booster, twelve of those now happening in 2022. Today also marked the thirty-ninth consecutive landing for the company and the forty-sixth mission they’ve launched from LC-39A.
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