A SpaceX rocket ship has officially blasted off carrying the first ever all-private crew to the International Space Station or ISS.
The flight was hailed by industry executives and NASA as a milestone in the commercialization of spaceflight.
SpaceX Has Docked at ISS
The team of four that was selected by Axiom Space Inc., a Houston-based startup, for its first spaceflight and orbital science mission lifted off on Apr. 8 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
A live video from Axiom showed the 25-storey SpaceX launch vehicle, consisting of a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped by its Crew Dragon capsule.
The cameras inside the crew compartment showed the footage of the four men strapped into the cabin, seated in their helmeted flight suits as the rocket soared toward space.
Just nine minutes after launch, the rocket’s upper stage delivered the crew capsule into the preliminary orbit.
The rocket’s reusable lower stage was detached from the rest of the spacecraft, flew itself back to Earth and touched down on a landing platform floating on a drone vessel in the Atlantic.
After a 20-hour flight, the four crew members led by retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, safely arrived at the International Space Station on Apr. 9, according to SpaceX.
SpaceX directed the mission control from its headquarters near Los Angeles, California.
NASA is now expected to assume responsibility for the astronauts and will undertake eight days of science and biomedical research.
The mission represented the partnership among Axiom, NASA, and SpaceX. This is a major step in the expansion of commercial space ventures referred to as the low-Earth orbit economy or LEO economy.
NASA chief Bill Nelson said that they are taking commercial business off the face of the Earth and putting it up in space.
The change enabled the space agency to focus more on sending humans back to the moon, to Mars, and on other new space exploration, according to The Guardian.
Preparations for SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule
The launch on Apr. 8 also stands as SpaceX’s sixth human space flight since 2020. Prior to this, four NASA astronaut flights to the space station and the Inspiration 4 launch in September 2021, which was the first time an all-civilian crew was launched into orbit. That flight, however, did not dock with the ISS.
While the space station has hosted civilian visitors from time to time, the SpaceX and Axiom AX-1 mission will mark the first all-civilian team of astronauts to use the ISS for its intended purpose as an orbiting laboratory.
The Axiom team will be sharing the weightless work environment with seven ISS crew members; three American astronauts, three Russian cosmonauts and one German cosmonauts, according to CNN.
The 63-year old Lopez-Alegria is a Spanish-born Axiom mission commander and is also the company’s vice-president for business development.
The second-in-command is Larry Connor, a real estate and technology businessman and aerobatics aviator from Ohio is the designated pilot. Connor is now in his 70s, but the company did not tell is precise age.
The other members of the team includes Eytan Stibbe, a 64-year old Israeli fighter pilot and investor-philanthropist, and Mark Pathy, a 52-year old Canadian businessman and philanthropist.
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Written by Sophie Webster
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