NASA has applauded the agreement and believes it represents a significant step forward in the agency’s objective of commercialising the area of space known as “low Earth orbit,” allowing the agency to devote its resources to more ambitious projects farther into the cosmos.
The launch of a SpaceX rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is scheduled for 11:17 a.m. (15:17 GMT) today.
The Axiom-1 expedition will be led by former Nasa astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who is a dual citizen of the United States and Spain and will command the project.
In addition to himself, he has three paid crewmates: American real estate mogul Larry Connor, Canadian businessman Mark Pathy, and Israeli former fighter pilot and entrepreneur Eytan Stibbe, all of whom are from the United States.
Ticket prices have been generally rumoured to be $55 million per person, which covers eight days on the mission outpost.
The purpose of Axiom, in contrast to the recent, attention-getting suborbital flights carried out by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, the company claims, should not be classified as tourism.
The foursome will conduct scientific research projects on board the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits 400 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. Projects will include studies of ageing in space, stem cell tests, and a technological demonstration of a self-assembling spaceship.
During a pre-launch briefing, Derek Hassmann, operations director of Axiom Space, said that the company’s personnel would not be “going up there and floating about for eight days snapping photographs and gazing out of the cupola.”
“We have a very active and research-oriented schedule plan in place for them,” says the professor.
Aside from that, crewmember Stibbe has planned a homage to his buddy Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, who perished in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia catastrophe when the shuttle destroyed during descent after a failed mission.
Stibbe will transport the pages from Ramon’s space journal that have survived, as well as keepsakes from his children, to the station for safekeeping.
This new crew will reside and operate alongside the station’s normal personnel, which now consists of three Americans and one German on the US side, as well as three Russians and one Ukrainian on the Ukrainian side.
The business has collaborated with SpaceX for a total of four missions, with the second, Ax-2, having already received preliminary approval from Nasa in concept.
Axiom views the missions as the initial steps toward a more ambitious goal: the construction of a private space station. In a statement, President and CEO Michael Suffredini said that the first module will be available in September of 2024.
It is intended to be first linked to the International Space Station (ISS), before finally flying independently after the latter retires and is deorbited sometime around 2030.