Axiom Space’s second crewed private mission to the International Space Station is now scheduled to launch in just ten days, with the crew of four preparing to conduct more than 20 science experiments in space.
The Ax-2 mission will now launch no earlier than 5:37 p.m. EDT on May 21 from SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The crew will travel to the station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule, where they will remain for approximately 10 days. This will be the second completely private crew to visit the ISS; the first mission, also conducted by Axiom Space, took place in April 2022.
The crew includes Peggy Whitson, the mission commander and Axiom’s director of human spaceflight; John Shoffner, the pilot; Ali Alqarni, mission specialist; and Rayyanah Barnawi, also a mission specialist. Alqarni and Barnawi are both members of Saudi Arabia’s first astronaut class and will be the first people from that country to visit the ISS. Shoffner, an Axiom investor, is the crew’s only paying customer.
The foursome will be engaged in a great deal of scientific research on board the station. The more than 20 payloads that will travel with the crew, which include demonstrations in life sciences, biomedicine and technology, are sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory. Experiments include investigating the impact of microgravity on stem cell production, studies on bioengineered human tissue, and a project that will help pinpoint a cure for cancer on Earth. The crew will also undergo a series of tests to better understand the impact of spaceflight and microgravity on the body.
A private crewed spaceflight mission is just one part of Axiom’s plan. The company is also one of a growing group of players looking to operate a private space station. Their plan includes attaching modules to the ISS and later using these modules as a free-flying station once the ISS is decommissioned in 2030. The launch of the first module is planned for 2025.
Axiom also announced last month that it has signed an agreement to form a joint venture with one of its investors: Korean pharmaceutical company Boryung, which contributed $50 million in capital last December. The joint venture was announced last month.