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SpaceX: launch date and how to fly on Axiom Space civilian flights

Axiom Space is planning a new era in spaceflight, and it's teaming up with SpaceX to deliver.

Axiom Space is teaming up with SpaceX to send more everyday civilians into space.

On Wednesday, the Houston-based firm organizing the mission announced it had reached an agreement with SpaceX to fly three additional private crew missions to the International Space Station. The missions will run through to 2023.

It’s an exciting chance for regular people to go to space. But beyond expanding space tourism, Axiom Space’s missions could serve another ambitious idea — to develop a successor to the International Space Station.

Want to find out more about Axiom Space’s plans to develop a new space station? Read our full interview with Christian Maender, director of in-space manufacturing and research at Axiom Space, only in MUSK READS+.

Axiom Space: When will SpaceX launch more private citizens?

  • As of this week’s announcement, it has been confirmed that all four will fly using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.
  • This capsule was developed as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, aimed at developing a way to send NASA astronauts to the space station.
  • The Crew Dragon flew on its first crewed mission in May 2020 and has flown on two subsequent missions.
  • Beyond Axiom Space and NASA, SpaceX also plans to host a private crewed flight into space with the Crew Dragon for the Inspiration-4 mission. That mission is set to launch in September 2021.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule launching on a Falcon 9 rocket.

NASA/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Axiom Space has a packed schedule for its upcoming missions. Here’s what to expect:

Ax-1 — This will be Axiom Space’s first private spaceflight mission. It is set to launch no earlier than January 2022. The crew will visit the International Space Station for eight days.

The crew members are:

  1. Michael López-Alegría. The mission commander was born in Madrid in Spain. He emigrated to the United States as a child, served as a NASA astronaut on four trips to the space station over a 20-year career, and is now vice president of Axiom Space.
  2. Larry Connor. The pilot. Connor is the CEO of the Connor Group real estate firm. His goal is to use his time at the station to assist with medical research for the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic.
  3. Mark Pathy. He’s CEO of Montreal-based investment firm Mavrik. He will be Canada’s 11th astronaut.
  4. Etyan Stibbe. He is the founding partner of the Vital Capital impact investment fund. He will be Israel’s second astronaut, following Ilan Ramon. The pair served together in the Israel Air Force as part of Squadron 117 in the Gulf War. Ramon died in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster.

Ax-2 — It is unclear when this mission will launch, but SpaceNews has speculated that it will be in the fall of 2022. Indeed, Axiom Space has confirmed that it aims to fly a commercial mission to the space station around every six months.

Two crew members have been confirmed for this mission so far:

  1. Peggy Whitson. The mission commander. Whitson served at NASA for 22 years, where she earned the record for most time spent in space for an American — a record she still holds. She was the International Space Station’s first female commander.
  2. John Shoffner. The pilot. Shoffner is from Knoxville, Tennessee, where he is also a champion GT racer.

A third will be a winner from the upcoming reality TV show Who Wants to be an Astronaut? — more on that further down.

Beyond the traditional flight training, the pair will also receive training to assist with research for 10x Genomics. This is a California-based firm developing products for use in medical research.

The pair will also serve as backup for the pilot and commander of the Ax-1 mission.

Ax-3 and Ax-4 — Little is known about these two flights. Based on Axiom Space’s planned cadence, expect them to fly in early and late 2023 respectively.

One of the crew members on Ax-4 will likely be a winner from the upcoming reality TV show Space Hero — more on that further down.

An artist's impression of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that will support these missions.


Axiom Space: How can I fly on a private spaceflight mission?

While the Ax-1 flight is already full, there are two opportunities coming up to take part in subsequent missions.

The first is the reality TV show Who Wants to be an Astronaut? The Discovery Channel show was announced last month.

  • Applicants interested in joining the show need to submit a 30-to-60-second video telling the team “about yourself, why you deserve a chance to travel to space, what it would mean to you, and why you want to participate.”
  • Applicants need to be 18 years old or over and a legal resident of the United States. Interested participants can go here to submit their video.
  • It is expected that the winner will fly on the Ax-2 mission, potentially in the fall of 2022.

The second is the reality TV show Space Hero. No network has been announced yet. In an interview with Forbes, co-CEOs of Space Hero Deborah Sass and Thomas Reemer claimed the show would start in late 2021, and it will be open to any candidates over 18 that are fluent in English.

Mike Suffredini, CEO of Axiom Space, confirmed in an interview with Spaceflight Now in September 2020 that the firm is aiming to send the Space Hero winner on the Ax-4 mission.

To find out more about Axiom Space’s ambitious plans to develop a successor to the International Space Station, read our interview with Christian Maender, director of in-space manufacturing and research at Axiom Space. You can find this and more only in MUSK READS+, a premium newsletter that covers the worlds of Elon Musk, SpaceX, Tesla, and everything between.

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