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SpaceX Launches Private Axiom Space Mission Ax-2 to International Space Station

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
May 22, 2023
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SpaceX Launches Private Axiom Space Mission Ax-2 to International Space Station
Ax-2 crew members Rayyanah Barnawi, Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner and Ali Alqarni prior to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Image credit: SpaceX.

SpaceX launched Axiom Space’s second private mission to the International Space Station on Sunday (May 22), which included two Americans and a pair of Saudi astronauts, including the first female astronaut from the kingdom.

The Ax-2 mission lifted off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 5:27 PM EDT. The Falcon 9 booster placed the Crew Dragon Freedom spacecraft on an 18-hour voyage to rendezvous and dock with the space station on Monday morning.

Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will add to the 665 days she previously spent in space during the 16-day Ax-2 mission. Whitson retired from the space agency in 2018 and now serves as Axiom’s director of human spaceflight.

Whitson is joined on the mission by three paying customers: American aviator and race car driver John Shoffner; Royal Saudi Air Force fighter pilot Ali Alqarni; and Saudi biomedical researcher Rayyanah Barnawi, who is the first female Saudi astronaut.

The astronauts will conduct scientific research, as well as educational and commercial activities during their stay aboard the space station.

NASA will provide live coverage of the crew’s arrival on its website on Monday.

  • 7:30 AM EDT – NASA docking coverage begins and airs through the conclusion of the welcome ceremony.
  • 9:24 AM EDT – Docking.
  • 11:13 AM EDT – Hatch Opening.
  • 11:45 AM EDT – Crew Welcome Ceremony.

Axiom conducted its first private mission to ISS in April 2021. Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria commanded the mission with paying customers from the United States, Canada, and Israel.

Axiom has a third commercial mission scheduled for November.

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