NASA is partnering with Axiom Space again for the fourth private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), after previously launching three other private missions. So far, Axiom Space is the only full-service mission provider to carry out end-to-end commercial astronaut missions to the ISS.
“Our Axiom Space team is looking forward to a fourth mission to the International Space Station”, said Michael Suffredini, CEO and president of Axiom Space. “Each mission allows us to build on the foundation we have set for the world’s first commercial space station, Axiom Station, preparing our teams and orbital platform to succeed the International Space Station operations in low Earth orbit. (LEO)”
NASA has been directed to develop commercial platforms to sustain a continuous US presence in low Earth orbit and to transition beyond ISS operations. These private astronaut missions are helping to pave the way for that transition.Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters in Washington
The mission, Ax-4, is expected to launch “no earlier than August 2024”. The mission will take off from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is expected to spend up to 14 days docked to the space station. Four crew members are yet to be selected by Axiom and confirmed by NASA.
In the meantime, the third mission has been postponed from November 2023 to “no earlier than January 2024” to allow the teams to collaborate on the integration of the mission’s scientific research priorities “that continue to expand on what we can learn in low Earth orbit to benefit humanity”.
These missions are instrumental in expanding commercial space activities and access to space for individuals and nations around the world, as well as developing the knowledge and experience needed to normalize living and working in microgravity.Michael Suffredini, CEO and president of Axiom Space
The Ax-4 crew members will train with NASA, international partners, and SpaceX for their flight. Axiom Space has contracted SpaceX as launch provider for transportation to and from the space station, and to familiarize the private astronauts with systems, procedures, and emergency preparedness for the Dragon spacecraft.
The first mission order for a private astronaut mission to the ISS was signed by NASA and Axiom Space in May 2021. Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), which launched on April 8, 2022, demonstrated Axiom Space’s ability to integrate with the ISS program and processes and conduct meaningful research in LEO. In August 2022, a second NASA mission order was signed with Axiom Space for Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2). Ax-2 successfully launched on May 21, 2023, to include the first female to command a commercial human spaceflight mission, the first Saudi astronauts to live and work on the ISS and the first Saudi female astronaut to go to space.