SpaceX launch of Ax-2 private astronaut mission now targeted for May 21

Four private Axiom Space Ax-2 astronauts post inside a space station mockup
The four private astronauts of Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission will fly to the International Space Station on a SpaceX capsule. They are: from left, pilot John Shoffner; mission specialist Rayyanah Barnawi; commander Peggy Whitson; and mission specialist Ali Alqarni. (Image credit: Axiom Space)

The second-ever private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has a tentative launch date once again.

NASA, SpaceX and Houston-based company Axiom Space had been targeting May 8 for the launch of Ax-2, which will send four people to the ISS for a roughly 10-day stay. 

On Wednesday (May 3), NASA announced that Ax-2 would not lift off in early May after all but did not provide a new target launch date. Just two days later, however, we got one.

"Launch Update: @NASA, @Axiom_Space & @SpaceX are targeting no earlier than 5:37 p.m. EDT Sunday, May 21, for launch of Axiom Mission 2 to the @Space_Station," NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate tweeted on Friday afternoon.

Related: Photos of the Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station

Ax-2 will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The four crewmates will travel to and from the International Space Station in a SpaceX Dragon capsule named Freedom.

This will be the second space trip for Freedom; it also flew SpaceX's Crew-4 mission to and from the orbiting lab for NASA in 2022. 

The Ax-2 crewmates are Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni. Whitson, a record-setting former NASA astronaut who now flies for Axiom, will command the mission. 

Shoffner is an investor and paying customer. Barnawi and AlQarni are members of the first Saudi Arabian astronaut class. They will become the first people from the kingdom to visit the ISS, and Barnawi will be the first Saudi woman to reach the final frontier. 

As its name suggests, Ax-2 will be the second mission organized and operated by Axiom Space. The first, Ax-1, sent four private astronauts to the ISS for more than two weeks in April 2022, also using SpaceX hardware.

Axiom is working on other, more ambitious projects as well. The company plans to launch several modules to the ISS in the coming years. This complex will then separate and become a free-flying private space station in Earth orbit.

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.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.