Space Stations

The AX-2 Mission Is In Orbit

By Keith Cowing
May 21, 2023
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The AX-2 Mission Is In Orbit
AX-2 Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying the Dragon “Freedom” was launched on time today at 5:37 pm EDT from Kennedy Space Center with a crew of four on board.

The Falcon 9 first stage landed in Florida – the first time a crewed mission has had a first stage perform a touchdown on land. The Dragon spacecraft and the AX-2 crew are now in orbit. Freedom will dock with the ISS in about 16 hours to begin an 8 day mission.

UPDATE: NASA Press release.

Four private astronauts are in orbit following the successful launch of Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2), the second all private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. Axiom Space astronauts lifted off at 5:37 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 21, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the company’s Dragon spacecraft carrying Ax-2 crew members Commander Peggy Whitson, Pilot John Shoffner, and Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi into orbit on a mission to conduct scientific research, outreach, and commercial activities on the space station.

“Congratulations to Axiom, SpaceX, and the Axiom Mission 2 crew on a successful launch! During their time aboard the International Space Station, the Ax-2 astronauts will carry out more than 20 scientific experiments, helping us better understand space radiation, weather in low-gravity conditions, and more,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This mission is more proof of NASA’s commitment to help our industry partners develop the next generation of space technology and a support a growing commercial space economy.”

Beginning at 7:30 a.m. Monday, May 22, NASA will provide live coverage of SpaceX Dragon docking, hatch opening, and a ceremony to welcome the crew on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

The SpaceX Dragon will autonomously dock to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module around 9:16 a.m. Monday with hatch opening about 11:13 a.m. Live mission coverage will conclude following the welcome ceremony expected to start about 11:45 a.m. The mission also will be covered by Axiom Space on its website.

Once aboard the station, the Ax-2 crew will be welcomed by Expedition 69 crew members, including NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Stephen Bowen, and Woody Hoburg, UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Dmitri Petelin, Sergey Prokopyev and Andrey Fedyaev.

Axiom Space astronauts are expected to depart the space station May 30, pending weather, for a return to Earth and splashdown at a landing site off the coast of Florida.

Learn more about how NASA is supporting a space economy in low Earth orbit:

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.