The first Axiom Space ISS mission: What to know

The Ax-1 crew in the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The Ax-1 crew in the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
Photo: SpaceX

On Friday, the SpaceX rocket will attempt to detonate from the Kennedy Space Center with four civilians on board. This is the first completely private mission to the ISS, in what is to be an exemplary mission. Here’s what you need to know for this historical presentation.

The Ax-1 crew, which includes a retired NASA astronaut, will climb aboard the Crew Dragon capsule on April 8 and explode at 11:17 a.m. EST on top of the Falcon 9 rocket. If all goes according to plan, the project, which is managed by Houston-based Axiom Space, will serve as another important milestone in the ongoing privatization of space. Here are five things you should know about the Ax-1 project.

This is the first private mission to the ISS

Last year Inspiration4 project will go down in history as the first to send a privately owned crew into space. Ax-1 is different in that the four crew members – all of whom are private citizens – will spend time aboard the International Space Station. It has never been done before.

The next thing, I guess, was Russian film group who spent 12 days aboard the ISS last year filming scenes for a movie, but that project, the Soyuz MS-19, was not exclusively privately run, with astronaut Anton Shkaplerov taking part as commander. The four men who will take part in this new project are Michael López-Alegría from the USA and Spain, Larry Connor from the USA, Eytan Stibbe from Israel and Mark Pathy from Canada.

Axiom did not answer the question of how much, if anything, the crew paid for their seats. A 2019 press release from the company mentioned a price tag of 55 million dollars for private space tickets.

Axiom is a small company with big plans

Axiom Space, founded in 2016, had about 110 employees in February 2021, but it has been expanding and has plans to reach 1,000 employees by the end of 2024. The company has close ties with NASA; Michael Suffredini, former NASA ISS Program Director, serves as the company’s CEO and Charles Bolden, former NASA Director, works as an independent consultant.

Axiom has a long list of potential offerings, including training astronauts, managing private and domestic flights to the ISS, offering orbital production capabilities, developing space-related life and medical assistance systems, and other exploration and marketing services. of space. It is important that the company has plans to build a private space station (more on this only), which it sets as a cornerstone of the future in its overall offering.

Ax-1 is a boys’ trip

López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut and vice president of Axiom, will lead Ax-1, while Connor, an entrepreneur and investor, will work as a pilot. López-Alegría flew into space on four different occasions during his 20-year career at NASA and is poised to become the first astronaut in history to lead both civilian and commercial space travel. Pathay and Stibbe, both investors, will serve as mission experts.

Ax-1 crew (from left to right): Larry Connor, Michael López-Alegría, Mark Paty and Eytan Stibbe.

Ax-1 crew (from left to right): Larry Connor, Michael López-Alegría, Mark Paty and Eytan Stibbe.
Photo: Axiom Space

All Ax-1 crew members are men, but former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is the project’s vice president. And on that note, Whitson is currently set to lead the Ax-2 project, scheduled for early 2023.

This is a “predecessor” project

Axiom describes Ax-1 as a “predecessor” of a private space mission. This is the first of four planned trips, all of which are step by step for the company as it looks forward to the construction of its private railway station, called Axiom base. Construction on the station is expected to begin in 2024; series of units will be gradually added to the Harmony node ISS. We retirement from the ISS in 2030, the space station will dispose of the spacecraft to “form the first free-flying, privately manufactured, internationally available space station – a focal point in the near future network of research, production and trade at LEO,” according to Axiom.

Description of an Axiom base connected to the ISS Harmony unit.

Description of an Axiom base connected to the ISS Harmony unit.
Photo: Axiom Space

The Ax-1 crew will spend 10 days in space, eight of them aboard the US ISS. The crew will conduct scientific experiments, conduct some trade activities and promote STEM education. The crew will not have time to waste because it plans to do 25 different experiments in just 100 hours. Earth team located at Axiom Space Mission Control Center in Houston will provide round-the-clock support.

The mission is meant to bring us closer to space

The crew has collaborated with several agencies to carry out a series of sscientific and technical experiments and tests. Some of them have significant consequences for humans living on Earth, but they are primarily aimed at enabling further space exploration. As Axiom explained in a press release: “Data collected in flight will affect the understanding of human physiology on Earth and in orbit, as well as the emergence of new technologies that could be used in future space and human spaceflight on Earth.

The space helmet that enables EEG.

The space helmet that enables EEG.
Photo: brain.space

A good example is EEG-active helmet, which will be tested and operated by the Ax-1 crew. In collaboration with Ben Gurion University, the team will record and analyze brain signals in an effort to identify potential neurological differences between humans as they work in space. Finally, the goal is to provide future long-term space travel with an easy and comfortable helmet and to build “a precise tool for daily measurement of astronauts’ skills,” according to brain.spacethe Israeli company behind the helmet.

The crew will also experiment with TESSERAE, or Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures, to explore a resilient, adaptive environment. This is a futuristic material, as this technology could eventually lead to the self-assembly of satellites. TESSERAE is named after Roman mosaics and is designed to connect to create larger structures, such as rooms and parabolic mirrors. During Ax-1, the team will test prototypes that can detect the quality of connections between tiles.

Description of the future TESSERAE space station, which is a self-assembled orbit around Mars.

Description of the future TESSERAE space station, which is a self-assembled orbit around Mars.
Photo: MIT Space Exploration Initiative / TU Dortmund Fraunhofer Institute

A collaboration involving the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and Montreal’s Children’s Hospital will study the effects of gravity on aging, heart health, spinal and brain tissue, chronic pain and sleep disorders. The team will also “take advantage of the accelerating aging factors of the micro-weight environment to assess early pre-cancerous and cancerous changes in tumor organs,” and test a new air-purification system, among other projects.

It all starts on Friday, weather permitting. It took some time, but we have fully entered a time when private individuals – albeit highly privileged individuals – can fly in low orbit around the earth and use space as a personal playground and place for business. Hopefully they have the rest of us in mind.

Do you have a suggestion or comment for me about spaceflight? Contact me at george.dvorsky@gizmodo.com.

Leave a Comment