SpaceX and Axiom Space successfully launch first all-private mission to the International Space Station
The launch represents a "new era in private human spaceflight", Axiom boss says.
At 16.17BST, the first ever all-private crew of astronauts successfully lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida to make their way to the International Space Station (ISS).
Dubbed Axiom-1, the mission will carry four astronauts, Commander Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Larry Connor, Mission Specialist Mark Pathy and Mission Specialist Eytan Stibbe, to the ISS on a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket.
The launch went smoothly, as did the return landing of the stage one booster rocket. It is estimated that it will take the spacecraft 20 hours and 28 minutes to dock at the ISS.
The spacecraft will now perform a number of 'burns' to position itself for docking to the ISS.
Once onboard, the crew will spend ten days conducting experiments across a wide range of sciences, from cancer research and biomedical health to robotic developments and Earth observations.
“I first want to congratulate Michael, Larry, Eytan, and Mark. We will usher in a new era in private human spaceflight when they cross the threshold to enter the ISS,” said Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space.
“This journey is the culmination of long hours of training, planning, and dedication from the crew and the entire Axiom Space team, our partners at SpaceX, and of course, a credit to NASA’s vision to develop a sustainable presence in low-Earth orbit.”
Axiom Space aims to develop its own, private space station in low-Earth orbit. Building of the Axiom Station’s first module is underway and is expected to launch in late 2024.
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Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Science Focus Podcast.