Skip to main content

SpaceX rolls Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon capsule out to pad for Ax-1 astronaut launch (photos)

The SpaceX Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket that will fly the all-private Ax-1 astronaut mission to the International Space Station roll out to Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on April 5, 2022.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket that will fly the all-private Ax-1 astronaut mission to the International Space Station roll out to Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on April 5, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX via Twitter)

The hardware that will launch the first-ever all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station has made its way to the pad.

On Tuesday (April 5), SpaceX rolled the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule that will fly the Ax-1 mission out to Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. SpaceX posted photos of the rollout on Twitter (opens in new tab)

Ax-1, which was organized by Houston company Axiom Space, is scheduled to lift off on Friday (April 8). It will send three paying customers and Axiom employee Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who's commanding the mission, to the orbiting lab for an eight-day stay. 

Photos: The first space tourists
Live updates: The Ax-1 private mission to the International Space Station

Another look at the Ax-1 Dragon and Falcon 9 during their rollout on April 5, 2022.

Another look at the Ax-1 Dragon and Falcon 9 during their rollout on April 5, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX via Twitter)

Private citizens have visited the station before, but they've always flown alongside government astronauts — specifically, employees of Roscosmos, Russia's federal space agency. Ax-1 will therefore blaze a new trail.

The coming mission isn't the first all-private crewed trip to Earth orbit, however. That distinction belongs to Inspiration4, a SpaceX flight purchased and commanded by tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman. He and three other people circled our planet for nearly three days last September aboard a Dragon capsule, but they didn't meet up with the space station.

Ax-1's launch had been targeted for Sunday (April 3), but it was pushed back to accommodate the "wet dress rehearsal" of NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission, which was held that same weekend at KSC's Pad 39B. 

The Artemis 1 test didn't wrap up on Sunday as planned, however; it was delayed and then halted by technical issues and will resume sometime after Ax-1 gets off the ground.

SpaceX has another crewed Dragon mission coming up this month as well — Crew-4, which will send three NASA astronauts and one European spaceflyer to the space station for a lengthy stay. Crew-4 is currently scheduled to launch from Pad 39A on April 20.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) 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.