Axiom 2 blasts off: new private mission to the International Space Station

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Successful liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Axiom 2 private mission to the International Space Station. Two U.S. and two Saudi Arabian crew members are on board, with the objective of conducting around twenty experiments in various fields of knowledge and laying the foundations for Axiom Space's future space station.

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Photograph of the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket the night before the launch of the Axiom 2 mission. Credits: SpaceX

Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX is a U.S. company focused on providing cargo and crew launch services to Earth orbit. Currently, they have the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, which uses kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel and oxidizer respectively. With a height of 65 meters, nine engines in the booster and one optimized for vacuum in its second stage, it has the capacity to carry up to 22 tons to low orbit.

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Diagram of the mission profile for Ax-2. This shows how the first stage performs a maneuver to return to the launch site for a propulsive landing, while the second stage gives the capsule a final push into orbit. Credits: SpaceX.

The rocket was recovered by automatic landing at the launch center. Shortly after separation of the second stage, the first stage executed the maneuver known as RTLS or return to launch site. This was thanks to the re-ignition of the engines for a retro-propulsed descent. In future missions it will be reused to continue transporting cargo to orbit.

Axiom Mission 2

SpaceX's Dragon capsule, reused from the Crew 4 mission, lifted off at 9:37 p.m. from launch pad LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla.. In its time in orbit will conduct a series of experiments focused on physiology, physical sciences and STEAM. This in order to strengthen the knowledge that gives way to applications for everyday life on Earth.

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Photograph of the crew inside the capsule. Credits: SpaceX

The International Space Station is an orbiting laboratory, constantly home to rotating crews from different countries. It is located at an average altitude of 423 kilometers, in the region known as low Earth orbit.. In order to stay in space, it requires a constant speed of 7.7 kilometers per second, which the Dragon capsule must achieve in order to dock with it.

The Axiom Mission 2 crew consists of four members who will spend just over two weeks in space.

  • CommanderPeggy Whitson, a biochemist, is America's most experienced astronaut. She flew into space three times aboard the Space Shuttle and Soyuz spacecraft, where she logged a total of six hundred and sixty-five days in orbit, ten extravehicular activities and hundreds of experiments in the ISS. As well as a long history of achievements and awards with NASA.
  • PilotJohn Shoffner seeks to boost education in science, engineering, mathematics and technology by teachers and professors. He has been an aviation pilot since the age of seventeen, accumulating more than 8,500 flight hours. He was one of the pioneers in the fiber optic telecommunications industry.
  • Specialist 1Ali Alqarni will be a mission specialist for AX-2 on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He is an integral member of the Saudi national astronaut program, becoming only the second man from his country to reach space. He has extensive flight experience in various aircraft, with a focus on fighter aircraft such as the F-15SA.
  • Specialist 2Rayynah Barnawi: Making history as the first Saudi woman to reach space, Rayynah Barnawi will be a mission specialist. She has focused her career and upcoming work on the Space Station on the study of cancer cells.

Closer to space every day

Manned missions to space are currently an open opportunity for only a few. However, we are in an era of transition where travel costs are decreasing considerably and are trending towards being accessible to more and more people.

Francisco Andrés Forero Daza