Axiom Space will send its second commercial crew to the International Space Station no earlier than Sunday (May 21), and you can follow along with their journey below in photos.
Houston-based Axiom Space's second crewed mission to space, called Ax-2, will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and inside a Crew Dragon spacecraft. Liftoff is set for Sunday (May 21) at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT), and you can watch live here at Space.com, via NASA and SpaceX.
Riding to space on Ax-2 will be commander Peggy Whitson (a retired NASA astronaut), U.S. pilot John Shoffner, Saudi mission specialist and fighter pilot Ali Alqarni, and mission specialist and research technician Rayyanah Barnawi, who will become the first Saudi woman in space.
On launch day, the four Ax-2 astronauts smile and wave to a camera and their SpaceX close-out crew after boarding their Dragon capsule Freedom just hours before launch. From left they are: Saudi astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi; pilot John Shoffner; commander Peggy Whitson; and Saudi astronaut Ali AlQarni.
Saudi National Astronauts Rayannah Barnawi (left) and Ali AlQarni give two thumbs up as they walk across the Crew Access Arm toward their Dragon spacecraft during their Ax-2 launch from Pad 39A at KSC on May 21. They are the first Saudi astronauts to visit the space station.
Ax-2 commander Peggy Whitson (left) and pilot John Shoffner arrive at Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center ahead of the mission's planned launch on May 21, 2023. The two other Ax-2 crewmates, Saudi Arabians Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, arrived at the pad just after Whitson and Shoffner did.
The sun rises behind SpaceX's Ax-2 Dragon capsule ahead of the May 21 launch of the Axiom Space private astronaut mission to the International Space Station.
Ax-2 is Axiom Space's second private flight with SpaceX. The Dragon capsule here, called Freedom, made its second flight to space on the flight, too.
The Falcon 9 rocket launching SpaceX's Ax-2 mission for Axiom Space is a brand-new rocket on its its first flight. Here, SpaceX shows the rocket on its Pad 39A launch pad ahead of launch day.
SpaceX planned to return the rocket to Earth and make a land-based landing on Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It's the first crewed flight to make a land landing, as previous ones landed on drone ships offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Ax-2 crew in training. From left: commander Peggy Whitson, mission specialist Rayyanah Barnawi, pilot John Shoffner and mission specialist Ali AlQarni.
The Ax-2 crew does weightless training in a parabolic aircraft. From left: commander Peggy Whitson and pilot John Shoffner.
The Ax-2 crew in the launch access arm at the NASA Kennedy Space Center, at the launch pad. From left: mission specialist Ali Alqarni, commander Peggy Whitson, pilot John Shoffner and mission specialist Rayyanah Barnawi.
Ax-2 commander Peggy Whitson, who has spent 665 days in space already as a retired NASA astronaut and broken several records.
Ax-2 mission specialist Rayyanah Barnawi, who will become the first Saudi woman in space. She has worked for nearly a decade as a research lab technician at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.
Ax-2 pilot John Shoffner, an investor and an aviator with more than 8,500 flight hours in various commercial aircraft and helicopters. Shoffner is a paying customer on Ax-2.
Ax-2 mission specialist Ali Alqarni, a fighter pilot with the Royal Saudi Air Force with nearly 2,400 flight hours of experience.
SpaceX rolls out the Falcon 9 rocket for Ax-2 on May 18, 2023. The Ax-2 mission is the first flight of the Falcon 9 first stage used for the flight, but the second for the Crew Dragon capsule Freedom.
A close-up view of the Ax-2 Dragon capsule, which is named Freedom, during its rollout to the launch pad on May 18, 2023.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace