Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission is the second-ever private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The mission is launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule on May 21 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and returned to Earth on May 30. Flying to the space station were two members of Saudi Arabia's first astronaut class, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni. Barnawi became the first Saudi woman in space on the flight
Also aboard were record-setting former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who served as commander, and John Shoffner, a paying customer who served as Ax-2's pilot. The four crewmates will travel to and from the International Space Station in a Dragon capsule named Freedom. The mission will last 10 days, eight of them on the station.
Splashdown success! | Ax-2 explained | Ax-2 launch video | Meet the Crew
Tariq Malik is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and has been covering human spaceflight for more than 18 years and space exploration overall for more than 20 years. He covered the final 22 space shuttle missions and NASA's ongoing International Space Station and Artemis program.
Brett is a science and technology journalist who is curious about emerging concepts in spaceflight and aerospace, alternative launch concepts, anti-satellite technologies, and uncrewed systems.
Ax-2 astronauts exit Dragon capsule to end mission
After SpaceX recovery team retrieved the Ax-2 Dragon capsule Freedom on its recovery ship Meghan, all four of the private astronauts have exited the spacecraft. Read our full Ax-2 splashdown story.
The Ax-2 astronauts were all smiles as they left the spacecraft, with some waving and posing for photos before being escorted away for medical checks.
Ax-2 commander Peggy Whitson was the first to leave the capsule, with pilot John Shoffner following shortly after. Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni followed next to round out the crew. The four astronauts were pulled from the capsule just over one hour after splashdown.
After their medical checks, the astronauts will be flown to land by helicopter and then head to Houston, SpaceX officials said.
That will wrap up our coverage of the Ax-2 mission. Join us back here once Axiom Space prepares for its next private flight, Ax-3, in the future.
SpaceX recovery teams reach Dragon capsule
SpaceX's recovery teams have reached the Dragon Freedom capsule where they are preparing it for retrieval by the company's ship Meghan. Two teams on fast boats are working on the capsule while another team member on a jet ski worked to help recover the parachutes.
Splashdown! SpaceX's Ax-2 Dragon capsule has landed safely, returning its crew of 4 private astronauts home after a 10 day flight for Axiom Space.
"SpaceX, we would like to tell you, that was a phenomenal ride," Ax-2 commander Peggy Whitson said. "We really enjoyed all of it."
Dragon main parachutes deploy
Main parachute deploy! SpaceX's Dragon capsule Freedom has deployed its main chutes and is now floating down for a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Panama City, Florida.
Ax-2 Dragon spotted by recovery crews
SpaceX has regained communications with the Ax-2 Dragon capsule and it is now visible to recovery crews on SpaceX ships in the Gulf of Mexico. Parachute deploy coming up next.
Ax-2 Dragon in communications blackout zone
SpaceX's Ax-2 Dragon capsule is reentering Earth's atmosphere and is now in a communications blackout period as it is enveloped in a super-hot plasma shell, protected by its heat-resistant heat shield.
The blackout period will last about 7 minutes.
Ax-2 Dragon deorbit burn complete
SpaceX's Ax-2 Crew Dragon capsule Freedom completed its deorbit burn at about 10:31 pm ET (0231 GMT) and closed its nosecone for reentry.
The spacecraft is expected to enter a planned communications blackout as it reenters Earth's atmosphere.
"We will see you on the other side," SpaceX radioed the crew.
Ax-2 astronauts prepare for splashdown
Axiom SpaceX's private Ax-2 astronauts are on track to return to Earth tonight, May 30, with a splashdown off the Florida coast at 11:04 p.m. EDT (0304 GMT). You can watch it live on Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX and Axiom Space. The webcast will begin at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT) and also be carried live on this page.
Ax-2 mission commander Peggy Whitson, pilot John Shoffner (a paying Axiom Space customer) and mission specialists Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, both of the Saudi Space Commission are wrapping up a 10-day spaceflight to the International Space Station, where they spent 8 days living on the orbiting lab and performing science experiments.
Ax-2 astronauts depart space station for Earth
The four crewmembers of Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission are on their way home.
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying the Ax-2 crew undocked from the International Space Station at 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT), NASA tweeted on Tuesday (May 30).
The crew will now make a nearly 12-hour voyage home before splashing down in the ocean off the coast of Florida at 11:02 p.m. EDT tonight (0302 GMT on May 31).
You can watch the Ax-2 crew return to Earth here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning at about 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT on May 31).
Ax-2 astronauts to leave space station
It's undocking day for the Axiom Space Ax-2 astronauts.
The four private astronauts will board their SpaceX Dragon and undock from the International Space Station today, May 30, and return to Earth to end a 10-day mission in orbit. You can watch the Ax-2 astronauts undock and land on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV and SpaceX.
The action will begin at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), when NASA will begin broadcasting TV coverage of the hatch closure between the station and Ax-2's SpaceX Dragon capsule Freedom. Hatch closure is scheduled for 9:10 a.m. EDT (1310 GMT).
NASA will then restart its broadcast coverage at 10:45 a.m. EDT (1445 GMT) ahead of undocking, which is scheduled for 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT). Both events will be streamed live on Space.com.
The Ax-2 Dragon spacecraft will spend just under 12 hours in orbit before returning to Earth, with splashdown scheduled for 11:02 p.m. EDT (0302 GMT on May 31). SpaceX will offer its own landing webcast starting at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT).
Ax-2 crew to bid farewell to ISS astronauts in ceremony
Axiom Space's four private Ax-2 astronauts will bid farewell to their hosts on the International Space Station today in a live ceremony at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) and you'll be able to watch it live via NASA TV.
On Sunday (May 28) the astronauts - commander Peggy Whitson, pilot John Shoffner and mission specialists Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi participated in a science briefing from orbit with Axiom Space, which you can also watch online. It was the last full day of science research and STEM outreach by the crew, according to an Axiom Space update.
The astronauts will spend the bulk of today packing up their gear and Dragon capsule Freedom for their return to Earth later this week. The quartet are scheduled to undock from the space station on Tuesday (May 30).
You can watch the undocking live online, via NASA TV, at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT). Undocking is scheduled for 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT).
Ax-2 astronauts begin 2nd week in space
The Axiom Space Ax-2 astronauts have completed Flight Day 7 of their 10 day mission and are nearing the end of their 8-day stay on the International Space Station.
The crew is expected to depart the space station on Tuesday (May 30) and return to Earth a short time later.
In the last few days, Ax-2 pilot John Shoffner, a paying customer for Axiom Space, and Ax-2 mission specialists Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi of the Saudi Space Commission have participated in a series of STEM outreach events using the station's ham radio as well as video links with students on Earth. You can get a good overview on their activities in Axiom Space's Flight Day 7 highlights video on YouTube.
Barnawi has been using a glovebox in the station's Japanese Kibo lab to conduct DNA experiments while AlQarni on Saturday performed experiments that measured the electrical activity in the brain in space.
Ax-mission commander Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, has been working alongside her crewmates. She also has been testing an Axiom Space inventory tracking system for use on the space station, as well as a Axiom communications protocols for private astronaut flights.
Ax-2 private astronauts complete 1st week in space
The four private astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission to the International Space Station complete their first full week in orbit today after their Sunday launch.
In a mission update on Friday, Axiom Space showcased pilot John Shoffner's work testing an MIT "Skinsuit" garment designed to simulate some effects of Earth gravity on an astronaut while in space. Saudi astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi has been conducting cancer research experiments and tasks using a special glovebox while fellow Saudi crewmate Ali AlQarni performed experiments for a Saudi university.
Shoffner unveiled the winners of his Art in Space and Poetry contest from inside the space station. You can see the art winners in Axiom Space's Mission Update Video for May 26.
Ax-2 astronauts to demo MIT Skinsuit
The four private Ax-2 astronauts are tackling their sixth in space today, May 26, with some demonstrations of innovative space clothing to help astronauts live in space.
Ax-2 pilot John Shoffner will test out an MIT Skinsuit outfit today designed to simulate the effects of Earth's gravity, at least some of them, on astronaut's bodies while they're in space. He will demonstrate how the gear works in a livestream at 10:40 a.m. EDT (1440 GMT).
You can watch the event live on YouTube via the video link above.
Ax-2 astronauts complete second day on space station
Ax-2 astronauts finished their second full day on the International Space Station yesterday (May 24) and worked on science, for the most part.
Rayyanah Barnawi, a Saudi research scientist, performed DNA nanotherapeutics (medical) mixing operations, and worked together with fellow Saudi astronaut Ali Alqarni on an advanced microscope called Kermit.
Commander Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, worked with U.S. pilot John Shoffner, did stem cell research while Shoffner also had two live conversations with students in the United Kingdom.
"I grew up wanting to be an astronaut," Shoffner said in an excerpt shared on Axiom Space's YouTube channel. "I was in love with the Space Race the moment it started ... It's an awesome experience. I'm here with a fabulous crew, enjoying a fabulous week of space science."
Ax-2 astronauts tackle first full day on ISS
The four private astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission are spending the first full day on the International Space Station.
Ax-2 commander Peggy Whitson, pilot John Shoffner (a paying crewmember) and mission specialists Ali AlQarni and Rayyannag Barnawi - both of the Saudi Space Commission - have a full plate of 20 different science experiments to perform, as well as in-space outreach events for students and the Saudi public.
"My family and brothers in the Kingdom.. The sky is no limit to our ambition.. it is only the beginning," Barnawi wrote on Twitter after arriving at the station on May 22. She became the first Saudi woman to fly in space and the 600th person in space on this flight.
Ax-2 astronauts enter space station
The four Ax-2 astronauts have officially entered the International Space Station, with broad smiles and handshakes welcoming them aboard.
Ax-2 commander Peggy Whitson was the first to enter the station, a homecoming of sorts as she has previously commanded the station during earlier missions. Pilot John Shoffner, who is paying for his trip on Ax-2 to Axiom Space, was next. Saudi Space Commission astronaut Ali AlQarni was third, followed by fellow Saudi astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi.
The four Ax-2 astronauts join a seven-person team already on the station as part of Expedition 69. They will have a full welcoming ceremony shortly to officially welcome the new group aboard.
Hatches open between Ax-2 Dragon, Space Station
The four Ax-2 astronauts aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon Freedom have opened the hatch between their spacecraft and the International Space Station.
Hatch opening occurred at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) after astronauts inside the station opened their own hatch on the space-facing port of NASA's Harmony connecting node.
The Ax-2 astronauts are expected to float inside the space station soon for a welcome ceremony that was originally scheduled at 11:45 a.m. EDT (1545 GMT).
Docking! SpaceX's Ax-2 arrives at space station
SpaceX's Ax-2 Crew Dragon Freedom successfully docked at the International Space Station at 9:12 a.m. EDT (1312 GMT) as both spacecraft sailed 262 miles above and to the northeast of Japan.
"That's the softest docking I've ever had," said Ax-2 commander Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who also flew to the station on a NASA space shuttle and Russian Soyuz capsule.
The crew will now spend eight days docked at the station, performing science experiments, STEM outreach and other tasks. NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg on the station welcomed Whitson back to the station, and her Ax-2 crewmates for the first time, including an Arabic greeting for Saudi astronauts Ali AlQarni and Rayannah Barnawi.
"We look forward to working with you guys this week," Whitson said.
New Ax-2 docking time: 9:10 am ET
SpaceX's Crew Dragon Freedom is on track for an earlier docking now, targeted for 9:10 a.m. EDT (1310 GMT), for today's Ax-2 astronaut crew arrival at the International Space Station.
In the last 90 minutes, the spacecraft has passed a series of waypoints and is now less than 200 meters away from the International Space Station.
Docking Day for Ax-2 crew
It's docking day for the four astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission and their SpaceX Dragon capsule is now scheduled to dock at the International Space Station at 9:10 a.m. EDT (1310 GMT), NASA officials say.
A live webcast is underway from NASA, SpaceX and Axiom Space and you can watch at the top of this page and on our docking webcast page here.
The docking will end a 15 hour trip to the space station for Ax-2 astronauts Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner, Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi and begin an eight-day stay on the station.
There will be live video of hatch opening between the two spacecraft at 11:13 a.m. EDT (1513 GMT), and the Crew’s welcoming remarks at 11:45 a.m. EDT (1545 GMT).
Ax-2 astronauts thrilled to be in space
The four astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission are thrilled to be in space, but were so busy getting out of their spacesuits after reaching orbit, they almost forgot to look out the window.
Ax-2 pilot John Shoffner, an investor and entrepreneur, said the experience of weightlessness after the ride into orbit was "an amazing feeling," during a short live video chat with SpaceX's Mission Control.
"We were all pretty busy getting dressed and getting all of our gear out that we forgot to look out the window for a couple of minutes," Shoffner said. "But it's amazing feeling really enjoying it. We're going to have an awesome experience."
Rayyanah Barnawi, who became the first Saudi woman to fly in space as a Saudi national astronaut, and her Saudi crewmate Ali AlQarni shared excited messages to home in Arabic, then translated them for their viewers.
"Hello from outer space! It feels amazing to be viewing Earth from this capsule.," Barnawi said, as she thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their support. "And to the people around the world, well, the future is very bright and I would like you to dream big, believe in yourself and believe in humanity."
Ax-2 crew doing well in orbit, launch a success
SpaceX, Axiom Space and NASA report the Ax-2 astronauts are doing well after reaching orbit after a stunning launch on a Falcon 9 rocket.
The four astronauts - commander and former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson; investor and pilot John Shoffner; and Saudi national astronauts Ali AlQarni and Rayannah Barnawi - are on track to dock at the International Space Station in just under 15 hours on the morning of Monday, May 22. Docking is set for about 9:24 am ET (1324 GMT).
SpaceX reported that the astronauts may have time to talk live with mission control from orbit at 8:40 p.m. EDT (0040 GMT) tonight. If so, we'll be sure to post the link here.
Joel Montalbano, NASA's program manager for the International Space Station, said the crew on the space station is preparing to welcome their new visitors. They are also gearing up to receive a new Russian cargo ship on May 24, so it will be a busy time.
The Ax-2 astronauts will spend 10 days in space, eight of them on the station. They are expected to undock on May 30, Montalbano said.
We'll continue to provide live mission updates here each day during the mission.
Ax-2 in orbit, post-launch briefing at 7 pm ET
And that's a wrap for SpaceX's's Ax-2 private astronaut launch for Axiom Space. The two companies and NASA have ended their livestreams, but SpaceX and Axiom Space will continue to post updates on Twitter. You can read our wrap story here.
It will take about 15 hours for the crew to reach the International Space Station, so they'll doff their spacesuits, have their first meal in space and try to get some rest. (They will probably plan to look out the window for a bit.)
NASA, SpaceX and Axiom Space will hold a post-launch briefing at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT). You can listen to it live in the feed above.
Spacecraft separation! Dragon Ax-2 astronauts in orbit
SpaceX's Crew Dragon Freedom has successfully separated from its Falcon 9 rocket's upper stage. Camera views showed it flying free above a bright blue Earth.
Meanwhile, the four Ax-2 astronauts are getting acquainted to zero gravity, playing with floating pens and their GiGi space bear.
The Falcon 9 rocket's 1st stage aced a flawless landing at LZ-1, SpaceX's landing pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It was the first time the company has landed a rocket on land after a crewed launch.
MECO and Stage Separation
SpaceX's Falcon 9 1st stage has shut down and separated from the upper stage. It has performed a boost back burn to return to Earth.
The upper stage engine has ignited as planned and continues to carry its Ax-2 crew into orbit.
"Copy, nominal trajectory," Ax-2 commander Peggy Whitson radioed to Mission Control.
LIFTOFF! SpaceX launches Ax-2 private astronaut mission
Ignition! SpaceX's Falcon 9 lifts off with a crew of four on the private Ax-2 astronaut mission for Axiom Space. Destination: International Space Station.
Strongback retracted, Dragon on internal power
SpaceX reports it's Dragon capsule is now on internal power and its Falcon 9 strongback support has retracted away. Fueling should also be completed for the Falcon 9 rocket in the next few minutes.
Minutes remain until the 5:37 pm ET (2137 GMT) launch.
SpaceX watching clouds, valve. Count continues
SpaceX reports there's an anvil cloud about 5 miles away from the launch pad and it just needs to stay 3 miles away for launch.
"Watching the clouds, thinking dry thoughts," Ax-2commander Peggy Whitson said.
"We are honored to have you aboard Dragon capsule Freedom today," SpaceX's launch director told the crew. "We wish you a great mission. Good luck, Godspeed and enjoy the ride." "Let freedom fly", Peggy Whitson called back.
Engine chilldown underway.
SpaceX completes RP-1 fueling of 2nd stage
SpaceX reports it has completed fueling the 2nd stage of the Falcon 9 rocket with its RP-1 propellant. Stage 1 liquid oxygen fueling has been underway simultaneously. Stage 2 LOX loading will follow shortly.
SpaceX is tracking a valve issue on the first stage manually to make sure its system is properly pressurized for launch, but is continuing with the countdown. A final check is expected at the T-35 seconds mark.
Propellant loading begins for Falcon 9
SpaceX has begun loading the RP-1 rocket-grade kerosene propellant onto the Falcon 9 rocket. The process started about 35 minutes before launch.
Crew Access Arm retracted for Ax-2 launch
SpaceX's launch director has given the "go" to begin preparing to fuel the Falcon 9 rocket for the Ax-2 mission. Meanwhile, the launch pad's Crew Access Arm has successfully retracted away from the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule.
SpaceX has armed the launch escape system on the Dragon Freedom capsule, which is designed to pull the spacecraft free of its rocket in case of an emergency.
Meet 'GiGi' the Build-a-Bear Zero-G indicator
Axiom Space unveiled the zero-g indicator and it is a tiny version of an Axiom Space Bear called "GiGi." The adorable space bear is actually a Build-A-Bear creation (yes, you can order a larger version of it for yourself) given to the Ax-2 crew before launch.
"GiGi was designed and built for the next generation of space explorers who will enable us to explore beyond, build a sustainable future in low-Earth orbit and realize the extensive science research that will be achievable with their involvement and active participation in STEAM," Sandra Nelson, vice president of marketing at Axiom Space, told Space.com contributor Robert Pearlman of collectSPACE.com.
The Axiom Space Bear is available for order now from the Build-A-Bear Workshop and Axiom Space websites for $42 each.
SpaceX close-out crew leaves pad, weather good
SpaceX's John Insprucker reports that the close-out crew has departed Pad 39A and the Crew Access Arm is being prepared to swing clear of the Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket.
Weather continues to look good for launch.
"Reporting no significant issues, everything continuing to look good," Insprucker said.
Dragon hatch closed for Ax-2 launch
SpaceX's close-out crew has closed and sealed the side hatch of the Dragon capsule Freedom ahead of today's launch of four Ax-2 astronauts for Axiom Space.
The countdown continues to tick down toward a 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT) launch, and all systems and weather appear to be in good shape.
Ax-2 astronauts in launch position
The four Ax-2 private astronauts are now in launch position after SpaceX rotated their seats from the upright position for ingress into an upward-facing position for liftoff.
A series of suit leak checks are underway right now. As we await the Crew Dragon side hatch closure, here's a clip of the crew heading out to the launch pad and meeting their rocket.
Ax-2 crew all strapped in
Axiom Space's Ax-2 crew is all smiles as they await communications checks while strapped in their Crew Dragon Freedom seats.
SpaceX will conduct a series of communications checks with each crewmember to ensure everything is ready for launch.
Ax-2 astronauts begins Dragon ingress
The Ax-2 astronauts have reached Pad 39A and taken the elevator up to the Crew Access Arm where the mission's commander Peggy Whitson and pilot John Shoffner have already entered their Dragon capsule. Saudi astronauts Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi will follow shortly.
The private astronauts took some time to marvel at their launch vehicle, then took the elevator up to the Crew Access Arm. They had an opportunity to make final phone calls to loved ones and sign SpaceX's White Room wall before entering the Dragon Freedom capsule.
Ax-2 astronauts suit up, head to launch pad
The Ax-2 astronauts have donned their sleek SpaceX-issue spacesuits inside SpaceX's Falcon rocket support building and are on their way to the launch pad. They left the support building near Launch Pad 39A, and will ride in three black Tesla electric cars to their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule at the pad.
Weather 75% Go for Ax-2 launch
SpaceX and Axiom Space have a new weather forecast for today's launch. There is now a 75% chance of good weather, down from 80%. The main concern is the formation of anvil clouds near the launch site.
SpaceX Ax-2 livestream beginning!
Will just over 3 hours to go until the Ax-2 astronaut launch, SpaceX is warming up its livestream for today's liftoff coverage.
The company's webcast is live and is expected to provide live commentary through the launch countdown. You can see the webcast at the top of this page, but we recommend viewing it through the Space.com homepage or our Ax-2 webcast page.
What time is the Ax-2 launch? We've got you.
As SpaceX counts down to launch the Ax-2 mission for Axiom Space, the company has shared a detailed timeline how it will work. We've rounded it all up in our "What time is SpaceX's Ax-2 launch?" story, but here's a sneak peak.
Launch Day for Axiom Space!
It's launch day for Axiom Space's private Ax-2 space crew on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff is set for 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT).
You'll be able to watch the Ax-2 launch live online, including on Space.com, beginning at about 2:10 p.m. EDT (1810 GMT) in a livestream provided by SpaceX.
The Ax-2 mission is the second all-private launch to the International Space Station by Axiom Space. It will launch four astronauts to the station on a 10-day flight, eight of those days will be on the space station.
The mission is commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will be the first woman to lead a private space mission. Serving as pilot is investor John Shoffner, who is a paying customer for Axiom Space. Two of Saudi Arabia's first astronauts, Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, round out the crew.
AlQarni and Barnawi will be the first Saudi astronauts to visit the International Space Station, with Barnawi to become the first Saudi woman in history to fly in space.
As we prepare for launch, here's a few things to know about this mission:
Meet the 4 astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission
Excitement builds for 1st Saudi astronauts to fly to space station
Saudi Arabia's 1st female astronaut hopes kids will follow in her footsteps
SpaceX Ax-2 private astronaut mission will grow 1st stem cells in space
Axiom crews to use custom Fisher space pens on private missions
Ax-2 mission GO for Sunday launch
NASA, SpaceX and Axiom Space have officially cleared the Ax-2 private astronaut mission for launch, with liftoff set for 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT) on Sunday, May 21. You'll be able to watch the Ax-2 launch live online, including on Space.com.
Officials for NASA and both companies met in a launch readiness review meeting today and signed off on the planned launch. This is the second all-private Axiom Space mission to the space station.
"It's obviously a very, very exciting day," Derek Hassmann, Axiom Space's chief of mission integration and operations, told reporters in a teleconference this evening. "We worked a long, long time in collaboration with our partners at SpaceX and NASA to get to this point. The crew has been working very hard to get trained and they're certainly ready to go."
Benji Reed, SpaceX's senior director for human spaceflight programs, said that a final check of the mission's Dragon capsule Freedom did reveal one issue that needed to be resolved. Nine fasteners on a panel near the top of Dragon spacecraft had less thermal protection filler material than expected, Reed explained, so a team is using a crane near the rocket to reach the site to fill the gaps in those fasteners in time for flight.
"We're actually fairly confident that that would be okay that we could we could fly the dragon that way and then come back and reenter with the amount of fill that we have there. Those analyses are ongoing," Reed said. "However, in an abundance of caution, we've decided to go ahead and get those cells exactly to the amount that they need to be filled with this thermal protective protection material on those nine fasteners."
Reed said the process will be completed tonight.
"It'll have no impact, we expect, to the launch."
1 day to launch: Ax-2 crew aces dress rehearsal
SpaceX is one day away from launching four private astronauts to the International Space Station for Axiom Space and the Ax-2 mission's crew are more than ready for launch.
On Friday, May 19, the Ax-2 astronauts -- commander Peggy Whitson (a former NASA spaceflyer); pilot John Shoffner, a paying customer; and Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni; -- performed a dress rehearsal for their planned launch on Sunday from NASA's Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida.
The four astronauts donned their sleek SpaceX spacesuits and rode out to the pad in Tesla electric cars, where they climbed inside their Dragon capsule Freedom.
"We got to see our rocket up close today! And, yes, there are goose bumps of excitement!!" Whitson said on Twitter.
Teams completed a full rehearsal of launch day activities with the @Axiom_Space Ax-2 crew pic.twitter.com/0xhqrf0SwLMay 19, 2023
Two days until Ax-2 launch
The Axiom 2 (Ax-2) mission is set to launch at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT) on May 21 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. And the crew of the mission can hardly contain their excitement ahead of the eight-day-long mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
Crew commander Peggy Whitson will be the first woman to lead a private space mission, following two commands of the ISS as a NASA astronaut. "We really feel like we’re prepared to go. We have a few more objectives to meet in the next few days, but we are so excited to get to space," she said in a press conference Tuesday (May 16).
The crew includes Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Alqarni, private pilot John Shoffner and Whitson. Alqarni plans to bring Saudi coffee and dates as he and Barnawai become the first two Saudi astronauts on the orbiting complex. — Rob Lea
What to know about Axiom Space's 2nd private mission to the ISS
Axiom Space is still aiming to launch its Ax-2 mission with SpaceX on Sunday (May 21) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Want to learn more about the mission? Here's what you need to know about Ax-2 and how it fits into Axiom Space's ambitious plans in Earth orbit.
Read more: Meet the 4 astronauts of SpaceX's Ax-2 mission for Axiom Space
Ax-2 crew shares excitement over upcoming launch
The four astronauts who will be launching on Axiom Space's upcoming Ax-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) held a virtual press conference on Tuesday (May 16) to discuss their impending spaceflight.
Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, Ax-2 mission specialists who are members of Saudi Arabia's first astronaut class, shared their excitement over being chosen to represent their nation as it sends its first humans to the ISS. "We are really honored and privileged to have you guys and to be part of this amazing mission," Alqarni said, adding that he and Barnawi "are really thrilled and excited for our mission and to represent Saudi Arabia on this journey."
Ax-2 pilot John Shoffner, meanwhile, shared that "To say I'm excited to be here would be a gross understatement." It will be Shoffner's first trip to space.
Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission is scheduled to liftoff atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday (May 21) at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. You can watch it live here courtesy of NASA and SpaceX.
Read more: Ax-2 private astronauts can't wait for their May 21 SpaceX launch to the space station
Related: Meet the 4 astronauts of SpaceX's Ax-2 mission for Axiom Space
Axiom Space 'Go' for Ax-2 launch on May 21
In a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) conference held Monday (May 15), mission managers from NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom Space said the upcoming Ax-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is currently on track to launch as scheduled at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT) on Sunday, May 21.
"Today we had a review where we brought together members of the team from Axiom Space, SpaceX and NASA to talk about the upcoming mission, and at the end of that review, the full team polled 'go,'" said Ken Bowersox, associate administrator for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate.
The mission will be the second-ever all-private mission to the International Space Station. The first, Ax-1, launched in April 2022 atop a SpaceX rocket and saw four private astronauts spend more than two weeks aboard the ISS.
Read more: SpaceX to launch 1st Saudi woman to space on private Ax-2 mission
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