All-private astronaut team lifts off to ISS on SpaceX rocket
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All-private astronaut team lifts off to ISS on SpaceX rocket

All-private astronaut team lifts off to ISS on SpaceX rocket

A SpaceX rocket-ship carrying an all-private crew of astronauts launched on Friday to the International Space Station ( ISS). This flight was hailed by industry leaders and NASA as significant in spaceflight commercialization.
Houston-based startup Axiom Space Inc selected the four-man team for their landmark debut spaceflight. The mission, which was also an orbital science mission, took place at 11:17 AM EDT (1517 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

Axiom live video webcast showed the SpaceX 25-story tall launch vehicle, which consisted of a Falcon 9 rocket and a Crew Dragon capsule. It was seen streaking across the Atlantic coastline of Florida atop a yellowish tail of exhaust.

The crew compartment camera captured footage of four men strapped into the pressurized cabin. They sat calmly in their white-and-black flight suits, while the rocket flew toward space.

Launch commentators said that the rocket’s upperstage delivered the crew capsule into its initial orbit nine minutes after launch. The rocket’s reusable lowerstage, which had separated from the rest of its spacecraft, flew back to Earth, landing safely on a floating platform in the Atlantic.

Kate Tice, launch webcast commentator, described liftoff as “absolutely perfect.” In a radio transmission, one crew member said to mission control that it was “a helluva ride.”

If everything goes according to plan, the retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez Alegria and his quartet will reach the station on Saturday after a 20-hour flight. The Crew Dragon, an autonomously operated spacecraft, will dock with the orbiting post at 250 miles (400km) above the Earth.

SpaceX, the rocket company that was founded in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk was responsible for the flight’s mission control from its headquarters near Los Angeles.

NASA will not only furnish the launch site but also take responsibility for the astronauts when they rendezvous with space station to conduct eight days of scientific and biomedical research while on orbit.

MILESTONE COMMERCIAL SPACEFLIGHT

Axiom SpaceX, NASA and SpaceX have all hailed the mission as a significant step in expanding commercial space ventures. It is also known as the “low-Earth orbit economy”, or “LEO economy” by insiders.

NASA chief Bill Nelson stated before the flight that “we’re taking commercial businesses off the face of Earth and putting them up in space.” He added that the shift allows NASA to concentrate more on sending humans back on the moon and to Mars.

Friday’s launch marks SpaceX’s sixth human-space flight in almost two years. This follows four NASA missions to the station and the “Inspiration 4” launch in September, which sent an all-civilian crew into orbit for the first. The flight didn’t dock with ISS.

Although the space station has been visited by civilians from time to time it is now that the Ax-1 mission marks the first commercial team of astronauts to use ISS as an orbiting research lab.

The Axiom four-man team will share the weightless environment with seven regular, government paid ISS crew members – three American astronauts and a German astronaut, as well as three Russian cosmonauts.

Lopez-Alegria (63), the Spanish-born Axiom commander is also vice president for business development. Larry Connor, a technology entrepreneur and an aerobatics aviator from Ohio, is his second-in command. Connor is now in his 70s, but the company didn’t provide an exact age.

Rounding out the Ax-1 team are investor-philanthropist and former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe, 64, and Canadian businessman and philanthropist Mark Pathy, 52, both serving as mission specialists. Stibbe is now the second Israeli astronaut in space after Ilan Ramon who died with six of his NASA crewmates in 2003’s Columbia disaster.

It may seem that the Axiom crew members have much in common with the many wealthy passengers who took suborbital rides on the Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic services offered to them by billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.

Axiom stated that its mission is more than just space tourism. Each crew member receives hundreds of hours of astronaut training from both NASA and SpaceX.

Company executives stated that the Ax-1 team will also be performing about two dozen science experiments aboard ISS. These include research on brain health, cancer, and aging.

The space station was launched to orbit in 1998. Since then, it has been continuously occupied by a U.S. and Russian-led partnership that includes Canada, Japan, and 11 European countries.

NASA does not plan to invest in a new station after the ISS has been retired around 2030. NASA chose Axiom to build a commercial wing for the orbiting laboratory in 2020. It currently spans the length of a football pitch.

When the station is decommissioned, plans call for the Axiom module to be detached from the station. Private operators will likely place their stations in orbit after ISS has been retired from service.

Axiom announced that it has signed a contract with SpaceX to fly three additional private missions to the station in the interim.

All-private astronaut team lifts off to ISS on SpaceX rocket
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