Axiom commercial manned mission to ISS splashes down safely

The four astronauts on Axiom’s third commercial manned mission to ISS successfully splashed down safely today in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida, with SpaceX recovery crews quickly picking them and the capsule Freedom up from the water.

The crew, made up of three European passengers and one Axiom employee, spent 21 days in space, about 17 on ISS. Axiom sold the tickets, and then purchased the ride from SpaceX and the time on ISS from NASA.

Freedom capsule undocks from ISS with AX-3 commercial crew

SpaceX’s Freedom capsule today undocked from ISS at 9:20 am (Eastern), carrying three European passengers and one commander, with a planned splashdown in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida at 8:30 am (Eastern) on February 9, 2024.

Ax-3 astronauts Michael López-Alegría, Walter Villadei, Marcus Wandt, and Alper Gezeravci will complete 18 days aboard the orbiting laboratory at the conclusion of their mission. The SpaceX Dragon will return to Earth with more than 550 pounds of science and supplies, including NASA experiments and hardware.

Live stream for that splashdown can be found here. The mission is a private one. Axiom sold the tickets, and purchased from SpaceX the Falcon 9 launch and use of its Freedom capsule. It also rented time on ISS from NASA for its crew and passengers.

Weather stops everything by SpaceX in the last 24 hours

SpaceX found itself stymied in the past 24 hours due to poor weather conditions on both coasts, with two launches and the return of a Dragon capsule from space all scrubbed.

First a Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg of 22 Starlink satellites was scrubbed, the launch pushed back from yesterday to tonight at 5.39 pm (Pacific).

Then a launch of a NASA climate satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral was scrubbed shortly thereafter, the launch rescheduled for 1:33 am (Eastern) tonight.

Finally, the return of Axiom’s Ax-3 commercial passenger flight to ISS was scrubbed today because of poor weather conditions.

NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX are standing down from the Tuesday, Feb. 6, undocking opportunity of Axiom Mission 3 from the International Space Station. Mission teams will continue to review weather conditions off the coast of Florida, which currently are not favorable for return, and set a new target opportunity for space station departure and splashdown of the Dragon spacecraft and Axiom crew members.

The undocking is now tentatively set for tomorrow morning, but this remains unconfirmed. The three passengers and the Axiom commander have so far spent 18 days in orbit. The original plan was for a 14 day mission, most of which to be spent on ISS, but weather can always extend such plans.

The launch scrubs illustrate the challenge SpaceX faces in reaching its stated goal of 150 launches in 2024. It appears the company is now capable of technically meeting that goal. To do it however it needs to launch almost every other day, and weather simply might not allow a pace like this during some parts of the year in both Florida and California. Whether the company can make-up for these delays with multiple daily launches at other times remains unknown. If it does, it will be another feather in the cap for SpaceX.

SpaceX successfully launches four astronauts to ISS on Axiom private mission

They’re coming for you next: SpaceX today successfully launched three European astronauts (plus the company capsule commander) to ISS on an Axiom private mission, its Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral at 4:49 pm (Eastern).

The capsule, Freedom, is flying humans into space for its third time. The first stage successfully completed its fourth flight, landing back at Cape Canaveral.

The mission itself is private, but the customer is the European Space Agency, which has paid the company Axiom to bring its astronauts to ISS for a fourteen day mission. Axiom in turn hired SpaceX to provide the rocket and capsule. This flight is confirmation that Europe has accepted the concept of capitalism in space, whereby it no longer depends on governments to accomplish what it wants, but instead is a customer buying those products from the private sector.

The astronauts are expected to dock with ISS early tomorrow morning.

The 2024 launch race:

6 SpaceX
5 China
1 India
1 Japan

Next manned mission to ISS to launch tomorrow

The next manned mission to ISS, a private mission by the company Axiom carrying three European astronauts and commanded by an Axiom astronaut, is presently scheduled to launch tomorrow, January 18, 2024, at 4:49 pm (Eastern).

This is a private mission by Axiom, launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and flying the astronauts in its Freedom Dragon manned capsule. This will be Freedom’s third flight to ISS. The launch was originally scheduled for today, but SpaceX scrubbed the mission today in order to give it “additional time allows teams to complete pre-launch checkouts and data analysis on the vehicle.” It appears during normal prelaunch checkouts engineers found the joints between the upper stage and the capsule were not tightened the proper amount. The company decided to replace the joints, which caused this one day delay.

The crew will spend up to fourteen days at ISS.

I have embedded a live stream of the launch below.
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AX-2 commercial passenger flight to ISS splashes down safely

Axiom’s second commercial passenger flight to ISS, dubbed AX-2, successfully splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico a little after 11 pm (Eastern) tonight after spending eight days in space.

Recovery efforts of the Freedom capsule are still underway by SpaceX crews. It is necessary again to emphasize that this is a private mission, launched by a private company in a privately owned capsule for a private company and private passengers. The only government involvement was when the capsule was docked to ISS and the crew was on the station.

Chinese launch yesterday set record for number of humans in space

The launch yesterday of three Chinese astronauts to that country’s Tiangong-3 space station established a new record, seventeen, for the number of humans in space.

The launch of the next crew to China’s Tiangong space station late Monday (U.S. time) added three astronauts to the population of humans in space, which reached a record number of 17 people in orbit — six Chinese citizens, five Americans, three Russians, two Saudis, and one Emirati astronaut.

The arrival of Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, and Gai Haichao in space following their launch atop a Long March rocket broke the previous record of 14 people in orbit at one time.

Meanwhile, the four-person crew of the commercial AX-2 mission to ISS, has undocked from ISS, with SpaceX’s Freedom capsule expected to splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico at 11:09 pm (Eastern) tonight.

SpaceX launches Axiom’s second commercial manned mission to ISS

SpaceX today successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to launch its Freedom manned capsule on its second flight, carrying four passengers on Axiom’s second commercial manned mission to ISS.

The Axiom crew included three paying passengers, one from the U.S. and two from Saudi Arabia, with the fourth crew member former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, now acting as Axiom’s commander. They plan to spend eight days docked to ISS. Making this commercial flight even more interesting is that the station already has a Middle Eastern commercial astronaut, from the United Arab Emirates. The Arab space race is clearing heating up.

The first stage was making its first flight, and successfully landed back at Cape Canaveral.

Were you aware this was happening? With my readers I expect so, but I am willing to bet that we are a very small minority. SpaceX has now made American manned spaceflight so routine almost no one pays attention.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

34 SpaceX
18 China
6 Russia
4 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 38 to 18 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 38 to 30. SpaceX by itself is now tied in total launches with the rest of the world, including American companies.

Axiom sets date for next commercial manned flight to ISS

Axiom and NASA yesterday announced May 8, 2023 as the launch date for the private company’s second commercial flight to ISS, this time carrying three passengers out of a crew of four, two from Saudi Arabia and the third, John Shoffner, completing his second paid flight with Axiom.

Two of its crewmates are Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni, members of the first Saudi Arabian astronaut class. Barnawi will become the first Saudi woman ever to reach space, and she and AlQarni will be the first people from the kingdom to travel to the ISS.

Retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will command the mission for Axiom. The Dragon capsule used will be Freedom, making its second flight, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket with a new first stage. The plan is to be docked to ISS for ten days, which means for that time period ISS will have three Arab astronauts on board, including the UAE’s astronaut, Sultan Al Neyadi, who is in the middle of a six month mission and is about to do his first spacewalk.