Axiom Space will fly a fourth crew to the International Space Station (ISS) as NASA once again selects the private space venture for another mission to low Earth orbit.
On Thursday, NASA and Axiom Space announced a new order for the fourth private mission to the ISS, which is set to launch no earlier than August 2024 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Axiom Space has so far dominated these commercial trips to the space station, previously sending two private crews to the ISS with a third mission currently in the works. “I am pleased to see another milestone in our efforts to transition low Earth orbit from primarily a government-sponsored activity to one where NASA is one of many customers,” Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.
The first private mission to the ISS arrived at the orbiting station in April 2022, and the four Ax-1 crew members spent 15 days living and working in the microgravity environment. Ax-2 launched a little over a year later, sending another private crew to the ISS in May 2023.
Even before the launch of Ax-2, NASA had already chosen Axiom Space for the third private mission to the space station. In March, the space agency announced a mission order with Axiom Space for a third crew of private astronauts to venture to low Earth orbit. Ax-3 was originally scheduled to launch in November 2023, but NASA and Axiom Space recently announced a revised launch date no earlier than January 2024 to allow “for teams to collaborate on the integration of the mission’s scientific research priorities,” the space agency wrote.
The private missions to the ISS are meant to transition low Earth orbit to a commercial platform following the retirement of the orbiting space station in 2030. Axiom Space is designing its own space station, with plans to launch the first module to low Earth orbit in 2025. With the launch of its Axiom station modules, the…