The International Space Station (ISS) will be busier than usual this week when four new Astronaut from Houston-based firm Axiom Space join the crew, making it the first all-private Astronaut team to fly to the orbiting outpost. The launch has been lauded by NASA and other industry participants as a watershed moment in the recent rise of commercial space endeavours generally known as the low-Earth orbit economy, or “LEO economy”.
Weather allowing, Axiom’s four-person crew will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday at the earliest, atop a Falcon 9 rocket provided and operated by Elon Musk’s commercial space launch company SpaceX. The launch was supposed to happen on Wednesday. According to an Axiom representative, the delay will give SpaceX extra time to finish pre-launch processing work.
Rounding out the Ax-1 team are investor-philanthropist and former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe, 64, and Canadian businessman and philanthropist Mark Pathy, 52, both serving as mission specialists. Stibbe will be the second Israeli in space, following Ilan Ramon, who died along with six NASA crewmates in the Columbia accident in 2003.Many of the rich tourists enjoying suborbital journeys on board billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson’s Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic services may appear to have a lot in common with the Ax-1 crew. Axiom executives, on the other hand, stated their purpose is more serious.