The first all-private crewed mission to the International Space Station won't launch this weekend after all.
Axiom Space's Ax-1 mission had been targeting a Sunday (April 3) liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. But on Monday (March 28), NASA officially approved Friday (April 1) through Sunday for the crucial "wet dress rehearsal" of its Artemis 1 moon mission, a practice session that's also taking place at KSC. So Ax-1 is getting pushed a few days.
"NASA, Axiom and SpaceX are now looking at no earlier than April 6 for the launch of Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, pending range approval," NASA officials wrote in an update on Monday afternoon.
Ax-1 will use a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule to send four people to the space station for an eight-day stay. Three of them are paying customers; the fourth is Axiom employee Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who's commanding the mission.
SpaceX has another astronaut launch coming up from KSC as well — that of the Crew-4 mission, which will send three NASA astronauts and one European spaceflyer to the orbiting lab for a lengthy stint. NASA and SpaceX had been targeting April 19 for Crew-4's liftoff, and that remains the case despite the Ax-1 delay, agency officials said in today's update.
The Artemis 1 wet dress rehearsal is a series of tests that will simulate the activities and procedures leading up to launch, including fueling of the mission's huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. (That's what the "wet" refers to.)
Artemis 1, the first-ever flight of the SLS, will send NASA's Orion capsule on an uncrewed mission around the moon. Launch is tentatively expected in May or June; NASA will set an official target date after analyzing the results of the wet dress rehearsal and other tests.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.