Houston-based Axiom Space now plans to launch its first space mission to the International Space Station on March 31, more than one month later than its initial target.
NASA quietly made the announcement Tuesday (Jan. 18) at the bottom of an International Space Station blog post otherwise focused on a recent Russian spacewalk at the Prichal docking module, and a forthcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo undocking.
"Axiom Mission 1, the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, is now targeting to launch March 31 to account for additional spacecraft preparations and space station traffic," the agency stated in the update.
Photos: The first space tourists
"Once aboard the orbiting laboratory," the update continued, "the four-person Axiom Space crew will conduct science, outreach, and commercial activities for eight days before their return to Earth."
Axiom-1 was initially supposed to launch Feb. 21 under the command of Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut who now works at Axiom. He will be joined by three space tourists, each of whom reportedly paid $55 million to be part of the eight-day mission. Neither Axiom Space nor Lopez-Alegria have commented on the delay on their Twitter feeds.
Axiom has contracted with SpaceX to receive four Crew Dragon spacecraft for future missions, including Ax-2, expected to launch in fall 2022 or spring 2023 under the command of Peggy Whitson, a record-setting former NASA astronaut and current Axiom employee. (Ax-2 will also include auto racer, pilot and investor John Shoffner, Axiom representatives have said, although the other two crewmembers are not yet disclosed.)
NASA has approved both Ax-1 and Ax-2, and official approval from the agency is also expected for Ax-3 and Ax-4 as those latter two missions approach their launch dates. On Wednesday (Jan. 20), CNBC reported that the producers of a planned Tom Cruise in-space movie plan to attach a studio to the ISS that will also be made by Axiom.
The studio module is scheduled to launch in December 2024 and will be attached to Axiom's first module, expected to arrive at the orbiting complex by September 2024, the report added.