Axiom-1 splashed down just off the Floridian coast after spending over two weeks in space. The Axiom-1 crew initially planned to spend ten days in space, making initial preparations for the arrival of Axiom Space’s planned inflatable modules.
Axiom-1 (AX-1) initially launched on April 8. The crew expected to spend eight days docked to the International Space Station. However, their return got repeatedly delayed due to poor weather at the splashdown zone. They ended up spending 15 days on the space station and 17 days in space.
Crew members included experienced astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who previously served on three space shuttle missions and as the commander of the International Space Station’s Expedition 14.
The remaining crew members all saw their first time in space during this flight. They included entrepreneur and activist-investor Larry Connor as pilot and Israeli Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe and investor Mark Pathy as mission specialists.
Axiom Space has an agreement with NASA to add some inflatable modules to the International Space Station. The modules will eventually be spun off and connected with additional modules to become one of the first privately owned space stations.
Axiom Space recently expanded its agreement with SpaceX to launch a total of four crews to the International Space Station. The next one, Axiom-2 will be commanded by another experienced astronaut, Peggy Whitson, who will be making a return to the station. She already accumulated more than 665 days in space, including three increments on the International Space Station.
Most of the Axiom missions include scientific research along with preparations for the new modules. Axiom-1 included two dozen experiments, including work on air purification system, cancer research, and self-assembling robots. MIT organized the robotic experiment, which included seven tiles running on Raspberry Pi that could assemble themselves in different configurations.
Axiom-2’s experiments will include work on single-cell genomics for a company called 10X Genomics.
Axiom Space plans to complete the series of four flights by the end of 2023 and launch the first inflatable modules as early as 2024. NASA and its international partners plan to retire the International Space Station at the end of 2031, at which point Axiom Space will be ready to spin off its modules into its own space station.
NASA plans to rent space on Axiom Space’s future space station and similar privately owned space stations as part of its push to partner with private industry. This will enable it to ramp up work on its own future space station, the Lunar Gateway. It plans to launch the first modules for the Lunar Gateway on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy as early as May 2024.