As seen, SpaceX brings the first all-commercial crew to the space station

SpaceX and Houston-based company Axiom Space are preparing to make history by bringing four privates to the International Space Station on Friday. The mission is the first NASA-sanctioned, fully commercial flight to the International Space Station — an important step in a government push to encourage private sector development on the High Frontier.

The crew of four will be led by Mission Commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut and now vice president at Axiom Space. He will be joined on board by three entrepreneur-philanthropists: American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe. They are ready to take off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:17 a.m. EDT on Friday.

Here’s how to watch the launch of SpaceX

  • What: SpaceX is sending the first all-commercial crew to the International Space Station
  • Date: Friday April 8, 2022
  • Time: Scheduled for 11:17 a.m. EDT
  • Location: The Kennedy Space Center, Fla
  • Online stream: Live on CBS News in the video player above and on your mobile or streaming device

“Weather is 90% favorable for launch,” SpaceX tweeted Friday morning.

The Axiom 1 mission, or Ax-1 for short, marks the sixth manned launch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. It is the second fully commercial flight into orbit – after the privately funded one Inspiration4 mission last September – and the first purely commercial visit to the International Space Station.

“This really looks like a NASA government mission from the outside. The difference is that it is a private company and they are private customers. And this is a real game changer in human spaceflight,” López-Alegría told CBS News senior national correspondent Mark Straßmann.

Over the past two decades, 11 private astronauts, or “space tourists,” have visited the space station under commercial agreements with the Russian Space Agency, but they have all been accompanied by professional cosmonauts. The Ax-1 crew is the first purely commercial, non-governmental flight to the station and the first to be sanctioned by NASA.

The opening of the space station to commercial use is part of a push by NASA to facilitate private sector operations in low Earth orbit and the development of commercially operated research stations after ISS is retired in the period 2030.

To date, Axiom Space has booked four private astronaut missions through SpaceX and is developing modules to attach to the station for commercial use. Before the lab retires, a solar power and cooling system will be added to allow the Axiom modules to be separated to fly on their own as an independent outpost.

“This is a historic mission for two reasons,” said Axiom CEO Mike Suffredini, a former NASA space station program manager. “This is the first fully private mission to the International Space Station. In addition, Axiom Space was formed to build a commercial space station, the first module will launch in just over two years.

“But this is our very first mission of probably hundreds of missions to come over the next few decades as we build the Axiom space station and provide many decades of low-Earth orbit services.”

The Axiom-1 crew during training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California (left to right): Larry Connor, Mission Commander Michael López-Alegría, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe.

axiom space

Assuming a timely launch, the capsule will make an automated 20-hour rendezvous and approach to the space station for docking at the spaceside port of the forward Harmony module around 7:45 a.m. Saturday.

The Axiom-1 crew plans to spend just over a week aboard the laboratory complex to conduct a variety of commercially sponsored biomedical experiments, technology demonstrations, and missions before undocking in a splashdown in the Atlantic or Gulf and returning to Earth from Mexico , depending on the weather.

Meet the crew

Michael Lopez-Alegria is a veteran of four spaceflights, including one long-term stay on the station, and spent a total of 257 days off-planet before resigning from NASA in 2012. He received refresher training for the Ax-1 mission and serves as a mentor to his rookie crew members.

Larry Connor, a veteran private pilot, is a “non-profit activist investor” and founder of the Connor Group, a real estate investment firm with $3.5 billion under management. He is an aerobatic pilot, off-road racer and mountaineer.

Markus Pathy is an investor/philanthropist, chairman and CEO of a Montreal-based investment and finance firm.

Eytan Stibbe flew F-16 jets in the Israel Air Force, later served in the reserves and built a successful business career. While on active duty, he served under Ilan Ramon, who later became the first Israeli in space but lost his life in the 2003 Columbia Shuttle disaster.

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