SpaceX launches three customers into space on private flight

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Credit: Getty Images

By David Millward,
Published by The Telegraph, 21 May 2023

The crew onboard the second-ever private mission to the International Space Station are set to carry out scientific experiments

Three paying customers – accompanied by an experienced astronaut – were blasted into space on Sunday.

The mission – carried out by SpaceX and Houston-based Axiom – was the second all-private mission to the station.

Former Nasa astronaut, 63-year-old Peggy Whitson, became the first woman to command a private space flight.

The AX-2 mission also made history with stem cell researcher Rayyanah Barnawi becoming the first Saudi woman to travel to space.

A second Saudi, Ali AlQarni – who is a fighter pilot, and an American, John Shoffner, who made his fortune in telecommunications, were also on board.

Their autonomous Crew Dragon capsule is due to dock with the International space station on Monday.

The crew is scheduled to spend eight days in space, carrying out scientific experiments including stem cell and biomedical research.

Although Russia has long allowed private citizens on the International Space Station, Nasa has only done so since 2019.It reflects the growing commercialisation of space travel in recent years.

“These missions are very important to us at Nasa as we try to open up space, and low Earth orbit especially, to a greater cross-section of society,” Ken Bowersox, associate administrator of Nasa’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, said.

“There’s a lot to be done there. And we think the economy in low Earth orbit will continue to expand and someday NASA will just be a participant in that economy, buying services from private industry in low Earth orbit as Nasa goes out and explores on the cutting edge.”

With the International Space Station expected to be retired in 2030, Axiom is among several private companies interested in creating a private facility.

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