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SpaceX, NASA delay undocking of private Ax-1 astronaut crew at space station

The four private astronauts of the Axiom Space Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station wave to students at Space Center Houston during a video call on April 13, 2022. They are (from left): Ax-1 pilot Larry Connor; commander and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría; Canadian entrepreneur Mark Pathy; and Israeli entrepeneur Eytan Stibbe.
The four private astronauts of the Axiom Space Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station wave to students at Space Center Houston during a video call on April 13, 2022. They are (from left): Ax-1 pilot Larry Connor; commander and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría; Canadian entrepreneur Mark Pathy; and Israeli entrepeneur Eytan Stibbe. (Image credit: Axiom Space)

The world's first all-private crew to the International Space Station must wait at least another day to depart the orbiting lab after bad weather prevented a planned undocking Saturday (April 23). 

NASA, SpaceX and the company Axiom Space, which is backing the private Ax-1 mission, called off plans to undock a SpaceX Dragon carrying its four-man crew due to unacceptably high winds at splashdown sites off the coast of Florida. Mission managers had been aiming for a Saturday evening undocking before the delay.

"At the conclusion of a weather briefing ahead of today's planned undocking, NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX teams elected to wave off today's undocking attempt due to a diurnal low wind trough which has been causing marginally high winds at the splashdown sites," NASA officials wrote in an update Saturday (opens in new tab). "The Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) crew is now targeting to undock from the International Space Station 8:55 p.m. EDT Sunday, April 24."

Live updates: Ax-1 private mission to space station
Related: See amazing photos of SpaceX's Ax-1 private astronaut mission

SpaceX's Ax-1 mission launched on April 8 to fly four commercial astronauts for Axiom Space, three of them paying passengers, on a short trip to the station. The crew includes commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut; and paying passengers Larry Connor, an American entrepreneur; Mark Pathy, a Canadian entrepreneur; and Israeli investor and entrepreneur Eytan Stibbe. 

Connor, Pathy and Stibbe are paying a reported $55 million each for the flight. During their trip, the Ax-1 astronauts have performed a series of experiments, helped mint NFTs on the station, conducted educational outreach activities and enjoyed the spaceflight experience. 

The Ax-1 mission was initially expected to last about 10 days, eight of them on the space station, but its duration was extended after weather concerns prevented a planned undocking on Tuesday (April 19). If the Ax-1 Dragon capsule can undock late Sunday, it is expected to splash down off the Florida coast around 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT) on Monday, April 25. 

Ax-1's undocking delays have caused a bit of a traffic jam for NASA's next professional crew to visit the space station. SpaceX is set to launch that new crew on the Crew-4 mission on Tuesday (April 26) from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Crew-4 astronauts' launch on a different SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has been on hold since mid-April due to the Ax-1 mission (which is currently using the Crew-4 mission's docking port on the station) and delays with a NASA Artemis 1 Space Launch System fueling test that caused a ripple effect of schedule changes at the Kennedy Space Center for Ax-1 and Crew-4 earlier in the month.

NASA and SpaceX are also planning to return four other professional astronauts of the Crew-3 mission on the space station home after the Crew-4 launch on yet a third Dragon capsule.

If all goes well, NASA will broadcast undocking operations for the Ax-1 crew on Sunday, beginning with hatch closing between the Dragon and station at 6:30 p.m. EDT (2230 GMT). Undocking coverage will begin at 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT). You can watch both of those activities live, courtesy of NASA TV. 

Axiom Space will provide a live webcast of the splashdown itself, beginning at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT) on Monday.

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Tariq Malik
Editor-in-Chief

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.