Science & Technology

All ready for launch of 1st private space mission to ISS

Miami, Apr 7 (EFE).- The pre-flight check on Thursday prior to the launch of the first private crewed mission to the International Space Station was successful and everything is ready for the launch, early on Friday morning, of the Axiom 1 (Ax-1) Mission from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The operations director of Axiom Space, Derek Hassmann, said on Thursday at a pre-launch news conference that the team is enthused about the “historic mission,” different from other ones, with four private citizens, all of them admittedly paying customers, on board and heading up to the ISS.

That was an emotion shared by the other participants in the press conference: Angela Hart, NASA’s commercial Low Earth Orbit Program manager; Dana Weigel, the NASA deputy manager of the International Space Station Program; and Benjamin Reed, the director of SpaceX’s crewed spaceflight program.

Hassman, however, made it clear that the crewmembers on the all-commercial non-government flight are not just space tourists but rather an “international crew” that will carry out experiments and other activities in orbit during the 10-day mission, eight of which will be spent aboard the ISS.

This is a crew that has received intensive astronaut training, are in high spirits and ready to launch on Friday.

“They’re very well prepared, they understand where they fit in the big scheme of things. They want to be good houseguests, if you will,” Hassmann added.

The Ax-1 mission will be commanded by former NASA astronaut Miguel Lopez-Alegria, of Spain, who now works for Axiom Space but has flown on four previous NASA space missions and has accumulated significant experience in orbit.

The other three philanthropist-entrepreneur civilians are Larry Connor, of the US, who will serve as pilot; Canada’s Mark Pathy and Israel’s Eytan Stibbe, the latter two serving as mission specialists and who will carry out scientific, commercial and other activities.

Axiom 1 is scheduled to launch Friday at 11:17 am from Cape Canaveral, on Florida’s east coast.

Everything is ready for launch, said Reed, who added that the launch team is expecting an improvement in the weather that will allow Ax-1 to lift off with the crew on board the Dragon space capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket manufactured by the private firm SpaceX.

“All systems are looking good for tomorrow’s Falcon 9 launch of the @Axiom_Space Ax-1 mission to the @space_station,” SpaceX said via Twitter. “Teams are keeping an eye on downrange weather along the ascent corridor.”

Reed and Hassmann emphasized that the mission will contribute to science and research, but – what is even more important – this completely private mission is valuable in terms of further developing plans to build the next commercial space station between 2024 and 2030, connected to the ISS.

Hassmann said that Ax-1 is the first of several missions that will continue in 2024 and “test our abilities” to meet that objective, although the priority is to keep the crew safe and “maximize their experience.”

Weigel emphasized the “intensive training” the crew received to be able to carry out their day-to-day mission tasks in videophotography, nutrition, zero-gravity activities and also to know what to do in “emergency situations.”

The crew will carry out a series of tasks under the watchful eye of Lopez-Alegria, with the experts at the press conference emphasizing his professionality and experience.

In recent remarks to EFE, the Hispanic American said that this mission is “an adventure” and “an historic moment” he is proud to be a part of.

Lopez-Alegria, born 63 years ago in Spain and raised in the US since he was very young, said that his return to space after 15 years makes him a little more nervous than when he was working on space missions for the US space agency.

EFE emi/jip/bp

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