Miami: The International Space Station (ISS) is set to become busier than usual this week when its crew welcomes aboard four new colleagues from Houston-based startup Axiom Space, the first all-private astronaut team ever flown to the orbiting outpost.
The launch is being hailed by the company, Nasa and other industry players as a turning point in the latest expansion of commercial space ventures collectively referred to by insiders as the low-Earth orbit economy, or “LEO economy” for short.
Weather permitting, Axiom’s four-man team was due to lift off on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, riding atop a Falcon 9 rocket furnished and flown by Elon Musk’s commercial space launch venture SpaceX.
If all goes smoothly, the quartet led by retired Nasa astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will arrive at the space station 28 hours later as their SpaceX-supplied Crew Dragon capsule docks at ISS some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
Lopez-Alegria, 63, is the Spanish-born mission commander and Axiom’s vice president of business development.
He is set to be joined by Larry Connor, a real estate and technology entrepreneur and aerobatics aviator from Ohio designated as the mission pilot.
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2022