SpaceX Launches Four Private Citizens To International Space Station

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, May 22, 2023 - 06:05 PM

SpaceX on Sunday launched a crew of four led by a retired NASA astronaut to the International Space Station that private space company Axiom Space chartered. 

The crew lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket inside a Dragon spacecraft around 5:37 pm from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking the second time Houston-based Axiom has chartered a private flight to the ISS. 

A few hours into the flight, Ax-2 astronauts, including Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut and now the director for human spaceflight at Axiom, Rayyanah Barnawi, a stem cell researcher from Saudi Arabia, Ali Alqarni a fighter pilot from Saudi Arabia, and American businessman John Shoffner, shared an image within the Dragon. 

The Dragon spacecraft is now anticipated to dock at the space-facing port of the ISS Harmony module around 9:16 am. 

NASA maintained a long-standing policy of prohibiting private individuals from visiting the ISS. However, the space agency modified its rules in 2019 and has been a key partner with private space companies. Bloomberg said one seat on the Dragon spacecraft costs $55 million. 

Before Sunday's launch, Ken Bowersox, associate administrator of NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate, told reporters during a news conference:

"These missions are very important to us at NASA as we try to open up space, and low Earth orbit especially, to a greater cross section of society.

"There's a lot to be done there. And we think the economy in low Earth orbit will continue to expand and someday NASA will just be a participant in that economy, buying services from private industry in low Earth orbit as NASA goes out and explores on the cutting edge."

In 2021, SpaceX flew four private individuals into orbit on its Dragon spacecraft that was chartered by Axiom. The billionaire, Jared Isaacman, led this team.

After Ax-2 astronauts dock at the ISS, they're expected to live and work on the station for eight days and conduct 20 experiments before returning to Earth. 

This might be the early stages of the private space industry's lift off and becoming a massive industry that will one day mine the moon and other planets for minerals