CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A Texas-based company says it has signed a contract with SpaceX to fly its Crew Dragon capsule on the first fully private, crewed flight to the International Space Station, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.
Axiom Space said Thursday it will fly three customers and its own professionally trained commander sometime in the second half of 2021, making it the "first fully private crew to ever visit the ISS together."
The participants selected for the eight-day trip to the ISS have not yet been announced.
“This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space – a first for a commercial entity," said Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini, a former manager with NASA's ISS program.
Axiom said in total, its missions to the ISS will take 10 days – two days in transit and eight days aboard the ISS. The company will provide training, mission planning, hardware development, life support, medical support, crew supplies, hardware and safety certifications, on-orbit operations, and overall mission management.
The company hopes to offer two professional and private ISS flights per year.
"Now, thanks to Axiom and their support from NASA, privately crewed missions will have unprecedented access to the space station, furthering the commercialization of space and helping usher in a new era of human exploration," said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and chief operating officer.
Founded in 2016, Axiom Space has targeted the ISS for its projects, which include a NASA-selected proposal for new attachments. The company eventually hopes to detach its modules from the ISS in the future, creating its own habitable space station in low-Earth orbit.
SpaceX is currently targeting the second quarter of this year for its first crewed flight of Crew Dragon, which will include two NASA astronauts destined for a shift on the ISS.