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SpaceX set to Launch First All-Private Crew to the Space Station

From left to Right, Mission Specialist Mark Pathy, Mission Pilot Larry Connor, Mission Commander Michael López-Alegría and Mission Specialist Eytan Stibbe

Updated with the latest launch date and time information as of Tuesday, April 7th, 2022.

On April 8th, the Axiom-1 mission will launch the next astronauts aboard Crew Dragon Endeavour, marking the first all private crew to visit the International Space Station. Over the last 2 years, SpaceX has launched 4 crews of government astronauts and 1 privately funded crew flight to space aboard their Falcon 9 launch vehicle, with this mission set to be the sixth. 

The Axiom-1 crew, commanded by former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, will visit the orbiting laboratory for eight days before returning home ahead of NASA’s next crew launch later in April. The AX-1 mission is the flagship mission for the Houston, Texas based company Axiom Space, of whom Mission Commander Michael López-Alegría is vice president. The three private astronauts joining López-Alegría are, American Lary Connor, Israeli Eytan Stibbe and Canadian Mark Pathy.

Following a two day transit to the orbiting laboratory, Endeavour will dock to the zenith (space-facing) node of the Harmony module on the ISS. Once aboard the station, the crew will conduct experiments and research such as TESSERAE (Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments), a program to take a look at ways to do construction in space. An investigation that will take a look at the way cancer and pre-cancerous tumors change over time, a tech demonstration of an improved air filter and biomedical research. 

Spanish-American mission commander Michael López-Alegría is a veteran of three Space Shuttle flights, and one Soyuz flight during his time at NASA. López-Alegría is also known for his service on numerous boards and committees such as the FAA’s Commercial Transportation Advisory Committee. He holds the NASA records, including the most spacewalks (10) and cumulative extravehicular activity (67 hrs, 40 min) time. These are among the accolades which earned him an induction into the American Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2021.

Entrepreneur and Non-Profit Activist Larry Connor will serve as the mission pilot, becoming the first private astronaut to fly a visiting spacecraft to the ISS. He’s founded numerous companies as well as his non-profit The Connor Group Kids and Community Partners which helps lift children out of poverty. Investor and entrepreneur mission specialist Mark Pathy will become the 12th Canadian to go to space, and only the 2nd private Canadian to do so. Pathy is the current CEO of MAVRIK, a business investment firm. Mission specialist Eytan Stibbe has served in the Israeli Air Force for over 40 years, though he is also known for his philanthropic and investment endeavors. One example is his Vital Capital Investment Fund which has helped improve the lives of millions of people, improving their everyday lives and well being. 

The Axiom-1 mission is currently planned to lift off at 11:17pm EDT (15:11 UTC) on April 8th from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center atop Falcon 9 booster B1062. After 8 days on station, pending acceptable return weather the crew will depart the station, heading back to splash down in one of the seven Crew Dragon splashdown zones off the coast of Florida, located in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean. 

Weather is currently forecast to be 90% Go with the main concern being the thick cloud rule, there is also moderate risk for downrange criteria(Booster-Recovery, Ascent Corridor & Upper Level Winds.) In the event of a delay, the weather for a 24hr turnaround is currently 80% Go with the primary concern of liftoff winds, and high risk for the ascent corridor and booster recovery.

Edits by Derek Newsome & Lavie Ohana.

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