NASA has announced a partnership with the space company Axiom Space for its second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The space agency said it will now negotiate with Axiom on a mission order agreement for Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2). The mission, which will see a spacecraft docked to the ISS for a maximum of 14 days, is targeted for launch between September 2022 and June 2023 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The agency’s first private mission to space with the same company, called Ax-1, is set for February 21 next year.
During the Ax-2 mission, private astronauts will perform activities in coordination with ISS crew members and air traffic controllers on the ground. The mission’s goals include scientific research and outreach activities. The agency and the company will all negotiate the activities in orbit for the private astronauts during the mission.
“We have selected Axiom Space for the second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, aimed at launching in early autumn 2022 at the earliest,” NASA said in a tweet.
In a separate statement, NASA explained why it chose Axiom Space for the second private mission. The Agency “evaluated the mission proposal based on Axiom’s ability to carry it out successfully, NASA’s ability to support it and its contribution to the Agency’s mission and objectives of low – orbit commercialization on Earth.”
NASA and its international partners will review Axiom’s proposals for selecting astronauts for the Ax-2 mission. Prior to approval for light, the selected crew members would undergo medical qualification tests based on NASA guidelines.
Axiom is led by Michael Suffredini, who served as NASA’s Program Manager from 2005 to 2015. Suffredini founded the company in 2016 with the goal of building private space stations that various customers can visit to do research. That Ax-1 mission led by former NASA astronaut and Axiom Space Vice President Michael Lopez-Alegria.