Raumfahrt - 1st private space crew paying $55M each to fly to station



CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The first private space station crew was introduced Tuesday: Three men who are each paying $55 million to fly on a SpaceX rocket.

They'll be led by a former NASA astronaut now working for Axiom Space, the Houston company that arranged the trip for next January.

“This is the first private flight to the International Space Station. It’s never been done before," said Axiom's chief executive and president Mike Suffredini, a former space station program manager for NASA.

While mission commander Michael Lopez-Alegria is well known in space circles, “the other three guys are just people who want to be able to go to space, and we’re providing that opportunity," Suffredini told The Associated Press.

The first crew will spend eight days at the space station, and will take one or two days to get there aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule following liftoff from Cape Canaveral.

Russia has been in the off-the-planet tourism business for years, selling rides to the International Space Station since 2001. Other space companies like Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin plan to take paying customers on up-and-down flights lasting just minutes. These trips — much more affordable with seats going for hundreds of thousands versus millions — could kick off this year.

Axiom's first customers include Larry Connor, a real estate and tech entrepreneur from Dayton, Ohio, Canadian financier Mark Pathy and Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe, a close friend of Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the space shuttle Columbia accident in 2003.

“These guys are all very involved and doing it for kind of for the betterment of their communities and countries, and so we couldn’t be happier with this makeup of the first crew because of their drive and their interest," Suffredini said.

Each of these first paying customers intends to perform science research in orbit, he said, along with educational outreach.

Lopez-Alegria, a former space station resident and spacewalking leader, called the group a “collection of pioneers."

Tom Cruise was mentioned last year as a potential crew member; NASA top officials confirmed he was interested in filming a movie at the space station. There was no word Tuesday on whether Cruise will catch the next Axiom flight. Suffredini declined to comment.

Each of the private astronauts had to pass medical tests and will get 15 weeks of training, according to Suffredini. The 70-year-old Connor will become the second-oldest person to fly in space, after John Glenn's shuttle flight in 1998 at age 77. He'll also serve under Lopez-Alegria as the capsule pilot.

Axiom plans about two private missions a year to the space station. It also is working to launch its own live-in compartments to the station beginning in 2024. This section would be detached from the station once it's retired by NASA and the international partners, and become its own private outpost.

Quelle: abcNews


Axiom Space names first private crew to launch to space station

— The crew of the first entirely-private orbital space mission will include the second oldest person to launch into space, the second Israeli in space, the 11th Canadian to fly into space and the first former NASA astronaut to return to the International Space Station, the company behind the flight has announced.

Axiom Space on Tuesday (Jan. 26) revealed its clients for its first privately-funded and operated mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) flight is being arranged under a commercial agreement with NASA.

Slated to launch on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft are: Larry Connor, an American real estate and technology entrepreneur; Eytan Stibbe, a businessman and former Israeli fighter pilot; Mark Pathy, a Canadian investor and philanthropist; and Michael Lopez-Alegria, a retired NASA astronaut who logged almost 260 days on four prior missions.

Lopez-Alegria, who retired from NASA in 2012 and is now a vice president at Axiom, will command the 10-day Ax-1 mission. Connor, who has flown more than 16 different aircraft and competed in the U.S. National Aerobatic Championship, will serve as the Dragon's pilot — the first private astronaut to pilot an orbital space mission. SpaceX designed its crewed Dragon capsule to fly autonomously, with human input only necessary in emergency situations.

Depending on other activities scheduled at the space station, the Ax-1 mission could launch as soon as January 2022. Axiom had earlier released that Lopez-Alegria would fly as Ax-1 commander in September 2020. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin announced that Stibbe would join the mission two months later in November.

Tuesday's reveal, aired live on ABC's Good Morning America, was the first time that Connor and Pathy were named to the Ax-1 mission.

At 71 years old, Connor will become the second oldest person to fly into space (only surpassed by the late John Glenn, who made his second spaceflight at the age of 77). Head of The Connor Group, a luxury apartment investment firm with over $3 billion in assets, Connor also co-founded two financial technology companies and established The Connor Group Kids & Community Partners, which serves disadvantaged youth in communities where The Connor Group operates.

In addition to flying, Connor also competes in off-road racing, has rafted the Zambezi River in Africa and Futaleufu River in South America and has summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mount Rainier in Washington State.

Pathy, 50, will be the 11th Canadian to fly into space, after nine Canadian Space Agency astronauts and the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, who became Canada's first so-called "space tourist" in 2009.

Pathy is the CEO and chairman of Mavrik, a privately-owned investment and financing company, and is the chairman of the board of the Stingray Group, a music, media and technology company, both based in Montreal. He also serves on the board of the Pathy Family Foundation and is a member of the boards and executive committees of both Dans la Rue and the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation.

Stibbe, who was born in Haifa, will be the second Israeli to launch into space, following his friend Ilan Ramon, who tragically died on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. "Eytan Stibbe will fly with the blue and white flag [on] his uniform, reminding us that the sky is no longer the limit!" Rivlin said last year. "Thanks to the Ramon Foundation for supporting the initiative."

Stibbe founded the Vital Capital Fund, which is focused on business and financing ventures primarily in Africa. He is also one of the founders and is a board member of the Center for African Studies at Ben-Gurion University and is a board member of several non-governmental organizations dedicated to education, art and culture. At age 63, Stibbe will become the third oldest person to enter orbit.

Lopez-Alegria will be the first former NASA astronaut to return to orbit and visit the ISS. He will also be 63 when he launches, but is five months younger than Stibbe.

"I'm just so grateful for this opportunity," Lopez-Alegria told collectSPACE in his first interview after being chosen to command Ax-1. "This seems like a gift from God and I just want to appreciate it."

Axiom Space, founded by NASA's former space station program manager Michael Suffredini, will arrange for the training and oversee in-flight operations for the Ax-1 crew, with Lopez-Alegria serving as the company's representative while in space. Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will train as Lopez-Alegria's backup. (John Shoffner, a U.S.-based entrepreneur, air show pilot and race car driver, will backup Connor.)

The Ax-1 mission is the first in a series of flights to the space station, including one possibly crewed by actor Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman, which are precursors to Axiom launching and attaching new commercial modules to the ISS. The Axiom Segment will serve as a testbed for the company's planned free-flying Axiom Station.

Ax-1 will be the first entirely-private crewed mission in Earth orbit. Between 2001 and 2009, seven private astronauts (spaceflight participants or so-called "space tourists") launched on eight self-funded trips to the ISS. Their flights, organized by the U.S. space tourism company Space Adventures, were on Russian Soyuz spacecraft crewed by professional cosmonauts and NASA astronauts (including Lopez-Alegria).

An April 2000 Russian mission, Soyuz TM-30 — the last to dock with the former space station Mir — was funded by the company MirCorp, but was crewed by two career Russian cosmonauts.

Quelle: CollectSpace


The four members of the Axiom Space Ax-1 crew: Michael Lopez-Alegria, former NASA astronaut, Axiom Space vice president and Ax-1 commander; Larry Connor, U.S. real estate entrepreneur and Ax-1 pilot; Mark Pathy, Canadian investor and philanthropist; and Eytan Stibbe, Israeli businessman and fighter pilot. (collectSPACE)

Axiom Space has proposed Axiom Mission 1 or Ax-1 as the first in a series of commercial missions to the International Space Station that will serve as a precursor to the company attaching commercial modules to the orbiting complex. (Axiom Space)

Ax-1 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, pilot Larry Connor and mission specialists Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe will train for their launch to the International Space Station using SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft simulator in Hawthorne, California. (collectSPACE)
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