NASA, Axiom Space sign off on 2nd crewed mission to International Space Station

Ax-2 targets takeoff in 2nd quarter of 2023

The SpaceX Dragon capsule being used for the Axiom AX-1 mission rolls out to the launch pad atop a Falcon 9 rocket. (SpaceX, SpaceX)

An order for the planned Axiom Mission 2 to the International Space Station is officially signed, according to a joint statement Wednesday by NASA and Axiom Space.

Ax-2 is currently set to take place in the second quarter of 2023, during which four astronauts will spend 10 days aboard the space station performing in-orbit activities during their time as crew members.

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Derek Hassmann, chief of mission integration and operations at Axiom, said Ax-2 will build upon the success of Ax-1, which launched from Florida in April.

“Axiom continues to fund and fly private astronaut missions to the International Space Station to build our expertise and attract new customers in preparation for the launch of our space station, Axiom Station,” Hassmann said in a statement. “Our new Ax-2 crew, together with a full mission manifest of science, outreach, and commercial activities, will continue to increase utilization of the International Space Station National Laboratory and demonstrate to the world the benefits of commercial space missions for all humanity.”

Sending private citizens to NASA’s International Space Station from American soil had never happened until Friday because NASA hadn’t allowed it.

Axiom will now have to recommend four proposed crew members for the mission, as well as four backup crew members. NASA requires that the spacecraft’s commander be a previously flown agency astronaut, but the rest are up to Axiom pending NASA’s review. Once announced, the crew members will train with NASA, SpaceX and international partners Axiom has contracted to become familiarized with the Crew Dragon spacecraft. According to the statement, training is expected to begin this fall.

The mission-specific order allows Axiom to employ some of NASA’s services for the crew’s daily use aboard the space station, such as the secured delivery of supplies to the station and a place to store them there. Ax-2 will be subject to NASA’s private astronaut mission pricing policy, the agency said.

Additionally, the order shares what Axiom offers in return for NASA’s services. That includes mainly the return of scientific samples and other objects to Earth from the space station, as well as “up to 10 hours of the private astronaut mission commander’s time.”

Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters in DC, said Ax-2 and all missions like it serve to grow economy in low-Earth orbit.

“In addition to expanding access to orbit for more people, we are also hoping these private astronaut missions will help the industry learn and develop the skillset to conduct such missions, and NASA is benefitting from gaining additional capability, particularly with returning additional cargo from the space station,” McAlister said in a statement.

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Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.