NASA has selected space habitat company Axiom Space for the second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The US space agency in June sought proposals for two new private astronaut missions to the ISS. Each of the new missions may be up to 14 days.
NASA and Axiom’s first private astronaut mission to the space station, Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), is scheduled to launch on February 21, 2022.
NASA, in a statement, said it will negotiate with Axiom on a mission order agreement for the Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) targeted to launch between fall 2022 and late spring 2023. Ax-2 will be launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA and Axiom will negotiate in-orbit activities for the private astronauts to conduct in coordination with space station crew members and flight controllers on the ground. The Ax-2 mission concept includes scientific research and outreach activities.
The mission is subject to NASA’s updated pricing policy for private astronaut missions, which reflects the full value of costs to the agency that are above space station baseline capabilities, the agency said.
Axiom founded in 2016 by Mike Suffredini, the former ISS programme manager at NASA, has the ultimate goal of building private space stations that various customers can visit to do research.
The Ax-1 crew will conduct approximately 25 experiments in human research, life and physical sciences, technology demonstrations and Earth observation, while onboard the ISS, the company said in a statement.
“Humanity has only scratched the surface of low-Earth orbit’s potential for breakthrough innovation and Axiom was founded to push that envelope — first with private astronaut missions to ISS, followed by the launch and operation of the world’s first commercial space station, and eventually the creation of a rotating city in space and scaled human presence in orbit,” said Michael Suffredini, President and CEO of Axiom Space, in the statement.
Ax-1 mission includes a multinational crew of four private astronauts with Axiom’s Michael Lopez-Alegria as commander, and a former NASA astronaut who now works for Axiom, along with three paying customers who paid $55 million each.
The customers include Larry Connor, an American non-profit activist investor; Mark Pathy, a Canadian investor; and Eytan Stibbe, an Israeli investor and former Israeli fighter pilot. The crew will fly to the orbital lab on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that Axiom purchased in March 2020.