SpaceX: the very first civilian mission to the ISS is imminent

SpaceX’s very first civilian space mission to the ISS is expected on April 6, 2022.

Last straight line for SpaceX before its very first tourist mission to the International Space Station (ISS). In a progress report that occurred on March 28, 2022, the company Axiom Space announced that the takeoff of the Ax-1 mission will take place on April 6. The flight of the Falcon 9 rocket will take place from the United States, in Florida, at the Kennedy Space Center.

This Ax-1 mission is the very first civilian mission SpaceX is operating towards the ISS. All previous manned missions to the station were missions conducted on behalf of the American space agency and its European, Canadian or Japanese counterparts. Each time, the people transported were professional astronauts.

Tourists return to the ISS

The International Space Station is used to receiving “tourists”. So far, nine individuals have been able to access the ISS without having received training as comprehensive as the personnel selected by the space agencies. The nationalities represented are varied: South Africa, United States, Russia, United Kingdom, Iran, Hungary and Canada.

For the flight organized by SpaceX and Axiom Space, four people will access the ISS for ten days: American-Spanish Michael López-Alegría, American Larry Connor, Israeli Eytan Stibbe and Canadian Mark Pathy. They will respectively occupy the positions of commander, pilot and mission specialists for the last two.

The mission is the result of an agreement between the two companies in 2020 to transport civilians to the ISS. For this mission, however, the four people selected are not all novices: Michael López-Alegría turns out to be a former NASA astronaut, who has already spent 257 days in space and carried out 5 missions and 10 exits spatial. He’s a veteran.

The ISS, in orbit around the Earth. // Source: Roscosmos

Obviously, access to space is not done like that: first, places are very expensive. The ticket is estimated at $55 million. Then, it is necessary to settle on a niche which will not disturb the current operations on board the ISS. There isn’t a lot of space in the station — especially for sleeping — and you have to agree with the schedule of agencies in other countries.

The Ax-1 mission was originally scheduled a little earlier, but had to be postponed for several weeks. Several other trips are already planned, for 2022 and 2023, with the Ax-2, Ax-3 and Ax-4 flights in particular. The same crew composition is planned each time: three civilians and one or a former NASA astronaut, to supervise the blues.

For further

NASA SpaceX astronaut // Source: NASA

To demonstrate the value of a flight in space that is not only a selfish pleasure, Axiom Space explains that ” the AX-1 mission crew will conduct extensive research and outreach activities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics “. In short, Ax-1 has a scientific stake, but also to highlight science.

If the Ax-1 mission is SpaceX’s first “tourist” mission to the ISS, it is not its very first civilian mission, period. In 2021, there was the Inspiration4 mission with four civilians on board (there wasn’t even an ex-astronaut then). The mission was to send a capsule into orbit around the Earth for a few days, before returning to Earth.

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