houston, we (almost) have liftoff
Houston company prepares for takeoff of first commercial space launch
A Houston-based space tech company has been preparing for liftoff, and all signs point to moving forward with the planned launch tomorrow, April 8.
Axiom Space’s first mission — Axiom mission 1 (Ax-1) headed to the International Space Station on SpaceX machinery — is ready for takeoff. SpaceX, Axiom, and NASA are targeting a launch time of 10:17 a.m. Docking is expected to occur Saturday, April 9, at around 6:30 a.m. Axiom will be airing a lifestream of the launch on its website.
Axiom Space, which reached $1 billion valuation and joined the Houston unicorn club last year after a $130 million investment round, is working on the first commercial space station to replace the ISS. The first launch of that mission is expected in late 2024. In the meantime, Axiom has a series of commercial launches to the existing station currently in orbit in order to prepare for development and orchestration of Axiom Station.
"This really represents the first step where a bunch of individuals who want to do something meaningful in low earth orbit that aren't members of the government are able to take this opportunity," says Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space, at a recent press conference. "It's really a precursor mission to a fully commercial space station that we're developing."
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft arrived last week in the hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and, according to a news release from Axiom, the spacecraft has since been mated with the Falcon 9 rocket.
On the 10-day mission, the Ax-1 crew will spend eight days on the ISS conducting research and testing technology and operations. The mission's members include:
- Commander Michael López-Alegría of Spain and the United States
- Pilot Larry Connor of the United States
- Mission Specialist Eytan Stibbe of Israel
- Mission Specialist Mark Pathy of Canada
"This mission is important because not only are we're also developing the techniques we will be using communication from mission control to space, but we're also developing all the procedures and processes that make space travel possible," says Peggy Whitson, director of Human Space Flight at Axiom Space, at the news conference.
Part of Axiom's long-term plans include an Earth observatory of its commercial space station. Photo via axiomspace.com