On May 21, 2023, SpaceX launched the Axiom Space 2 crew into space aboard the Dragon Freedom spacecraft atop its Falcon 9 rocket.
Following stage separation, Falcon 9 booster, identified as B1080, touched down on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station; this booster has not flown before, and this launch marked the first time that a booster, after delivering to space a crewed mission, returned back to the launch site.
Axiom Space 2 (Ax-2) is Axiom Space’s second all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Dragon spacecraft autonomously docked successfully with ISS on May 22 at 13:12 UTC.
Welcome aboard the @Space_Station #Ax2 crew!— Axiom Space (@Axiom_Space) May 22, 2023
They celebrated the moment with a welcome ceremony. The Ax-2 crew members were pinned with the Universal Astronaut Insignia which represents all space travelers. pic.twitter.com/qfC2NDkFbv
During their eight-day stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, the multinational crew will conduct extensive research, investigate novel technologies, and engage with audiences around the world.
They will conduct more than 20 different experiments aboard the space station, thanks to Axiom Space’s full-service integration into the NASA process for science and technology activities onboard the ISS.
Some experiments include:
- Stellar stem cells in collaboration with Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute: this project seeks insights into the impact of microgravity on producing stem cells and stem cell-derived products in space. The steps used to reprogram skin cells into stem cells capable of producing a variety of tissue types will be studied and this could support regenerative medicine uses on Earth.
- Space hematopoietic stem cell aging in collaboration with Sanford Stem Cell Institute/UC San Diego: in this project, the activity of DNA and RNA-editing enzymes will be evaluated by analyzing blood samples taken from the crew before, during, and after spaceflight. This will help better understand changes in the editing activity of these enzymes in blood stem cells due to spaceflight.
- Student Art Competition From Space: one of the most awaited events by students worldwide is the Space Art Contest hosted by Ax-2 Pilot John Shoffner. The students sent a painting or a poem about space and the winners from each division (art and poetry), will be announced live from the ISS and will receive special recognition.
- Imaging of Lighting and Nighttime Electrical Phenomena from Space (ILAN-ES) in collaboration with the Rakia Mission: this is a night-time experiment. It will image thunderstorms, lightning, and transient luminous events (TLEs) known as sprites, blue jets, and elves. These electrical phenomena occur at high altitudes above thunderstorms and are a marker of severe weather and extremely powerful lightning, called superbolts. Video and images will be taken from the ISS Cupola.
- Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS): the primary goal of ARISS is to promote the study of STEM topics by organizing contacts via amateur radio between crew members aboard the ISS and students. ARISS’s amateur radio connection with astronauts inspires students worldwide to pursue interests and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Meet the crew
Peggy Whitson is the commander.
She is Axiom Space’s Director of Human Spaceflight and a record-breaking former NASA astronaut.
Whitson flew on three long-duration NASA space flights during which she became the U.S. astronaut with the most cumulative days spent in space (665) and the first female commander of the International Space Station (she was also the only woman to hold this role twice).
She received degrees in biology and chemistry from Iowa Wesleyan and a doctoral degree in biochemistry from Rice University.
John Shoffner is the pilot.
He is a STEM advocate, business pioneer, and lifelong space enthusiast.
His professional career led him to the forefront of the fiber optic telecommunications industry at its earliest stages. He developed and patented multiple processes for materials and methods for the placement of fiber optic cable during the 1980s.
Shoffner has been a pilot with more than 8,500 flight hours and a veteran of airshows for more than 25 years.
Rayyanah Barnawi is a Mission Specialist representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
She is a biomedical researcher and spent over nine years as a research lab technician for the Stem Cell and Tissue Re-engineering Program at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Rayyanah made history as the first Saudi female astronaut to go to space and one of the first Saudi astronauts to visit the ISS.
Ali Alqarni is a Mission Specialist representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Alqarni is a fighter pilot with 2,387 flight hours and has experience on multiple aircraft, including the Cessna 172, T-6, T-38, and F-15S. He primarily has piloted the F-15SA in service to the Royal Saudi Air Force.
He made history as the second Saudi male astronaut and one of the first Saudi astronauts to visit the International Space Station.
Axiom Space is a company making Low Earth Orbit accessible to visionary governments, researchers, and individuals.
In 2022 Axiom completed the first private mission to the International Space Station and is currently building the first commercial space station: it will host crews, research, and manufacturing that will lead to the development of numerous industries using techniques that are available only in microgravity.
It will be an accessible platform for private companies and governments to continue the research and development of breakthrough innovations.
Axiom Space is the only company with the privilege of connecting its modules to the International Space Station.