SpaceX Dragon capsule with Ax-2 private astronauts undocks from space station (video)

Update for 12 pm ET: The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying the Ax-2 crew successfully undocked from the International Space Station at 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT) and is headed back to Earth.  You can watch their landing on, courtesy of SpaceX, at 10 pm ET (0200 GMT). The crew is scheduled to splash down in the ocean off the coast of Florida at 11:02 p.m. EDT tonight (0302 GMT on May 31). Live updates.

The four astronauts of the private Ax-2 mission are scheduled to head home to Earth today (May 30), and you can watch the action live.

The hatch between Ax-2's SpaceX Dragon capsule, named Freedom, and the International Space Station (ISS) was closed at 9:20 a.m. EDT (1320 GMT), with undocking set for 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT). 

You can follow undocking live here at beginning at 10:45 a.m. EDT (1445 GMT), courtesy of NASA TV. The capsule will come back to our planet for an ocean splashdown at 11:02 p.m. EDT today (0302 GMT on May 31). You can watch Freedom's return here at, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning at about 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT on May 31).

Related: SpaceX launches Ax-2 private astronaut mission to space station (video)
Read more: Ax-2 spaceflight with SpaceX: Live updates

The members of the International Space Station's current Expedition 69 crew welcome the four private astronauts of the Ax-2 mission to the orbiting lab on May 22, 2023. (Image credit: Axiom Space)

Ax-2 launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 21 and arrived at the ISS a day later. 

The private mission, which is operated by Axiom Space, is commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who now works for the Houston-based company. The other crewmates are paying customer John Shoffner and Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, both of whom are members of Saudi Arabia's first astronaut class.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Freedom floats against the black of space

(Image credit: Axiom Space)

The Saudi duo were the first people from the kingdom to visit the ISS, and Barnawi became the first Saudi woman ever to reach space

The four Ax-2 astronauts helped perform more than 20 scientific experiments during their eight days aboard the orbiting lab and conducted a variety of outreach and education activities as well. Alqarni and Barnawi were particularly busy with outreach work, as Saudi Arabia views their mission as a golden opportunity to spark a love of science and engineering in the nation's youth.

As its name suggests, Ax-2 is the second mission that Axiom Space has flown to the ISS. The first, Ax-1, sent four people up on a SpaceX Dragon in April 2022.

Axiom plans to continue flying such missions for the next few years, but it also has bigger goals in mind. The company intends to launch a handful of modules to the ISS starting in 2025. These modules will then detach from the orbiting lab in the late 2020s to become a free-flying private outpost in low Earth orbit.

NASA is fully supportive of this effort. The space agency is encouraging the development of private space stations, hoping at least one is up and running before the ISS is retired at the end of 2030.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.