Axiom Space and SpaceX successfully launched the Axiom-1 (AX-1) mission, which is now on its way to the International Space Station.
This is the first of Axiom Space’s four planned flights to the International Space Station. The AX-1 crew includes mission commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, whose previous spaceflight experience includes three Space Shuttle missions and serving as commander of the International Space Station’s Expedition 14 crew.
The Axiom-1 mission will dock with the International Space Station on the morning of April 9 and spend eight days conducting onboard experiments and making initial preparations for Axiom Space’s planned launch of inflatable modules for the International Space Station. The Axiom-1 crew will spend a total of 10 days in orbit.
The inflatable modules will eventually spin off into an independent space station that can operate separately for the International Space Station. Axiom Space expects to have its Axiom Station completed and potentially capable of replacing the International Space Station by 2028.
Other aerospace companies with their own space stations in development include Nanoracks, Northrop Grumman, and Blue Origin. NASA says it will rent space on the privately owned space stations as needed once the International Space Station is retired. This continues its goals of developing technology for future spaceflights and partnerships with private aerospace companies through programs like the Commercial Crew Program, for which SpaceX is preparing to launch Crew-4 later this month.
NASA currently focuses on developing and building the Lunar Gateway station and has awarded a contract to launch the first components of the Gateway to SpaceX. Some current ISS partners will contribute components like Canada’s signature “Canadarm” line of robotic arms. Canada’s contribution to the Lunar Gateway will be called Canadarm3, a successor to the ISS’ Canadarm2. The Lunar Gateway will help enable sustained exploration of the lunar surface.
The International Space Station’s current Expedition 67 includes seven crew members from the U.S., Russia, and Europe. The addition of AX-1’s astronauts will temporarily bring the total number of people on the space station up to eleven.
Another experienced astronaut, Peggy Whitson, will command the Axiom-2 mission. She previously served three increments on the International Space Station, became the station’s first official science officer, and commanded Expedition 16. She also served as the chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office.