By Isabel Keane
Three men and a retired NASA astronaut will spend the next 10 days in orbit, including eight days aboard the station as part of the inaugural trip for the commercial spaceflight company Axiom Space.
The Axiom-1 mission had a successful launch, taking off at 11.17am Eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About 12 minutes after the launch, the Crew Dragon capsule detached from the rocket, marking the beginning of the trip into space.
Systems on the spacecraft were prepared as the weather for the launch was 90 percent favorable for liftoff. The new group of astronauts will ride in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and docking at the station with a SpaceX Crew Dragon, the same capsule used by NASA’s own astronauts.
In a first-of-its-kind deal between NASA and commercial partners, SpaceX and Houston-based Axiom Space, the mission will be the first to bring paying customers to the International Space Station.
The launch is being hailed by many key players in the space industry, including NASA, as a turning point in the development of commercial space ventures.
While at the International Space Station, the three civilians will help with over two dozen scientific experiments and assist Axiom in their plans to create the first-ever commercial space station.
Former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría will command the mission. He also serves as Axiom’s vice president of business development and chief astronaut.
López-Alegría will be joined by Mission Pilot Larry Connor and Mission Specialists Mark Pathy of Canada and Eytan Stibbe of Israel.
The three men reportedly each paid $55 million to go on the mission.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule is expected to dock at the International Space Station early Saturday morning.