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Four private astronauts set for launch Friday – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Axiom’s Ax-1 mission. The Ax-1 mission will carry Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe, and Mark Pathy to the International Space Station. Follow us on Twitter.

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Four private citizens are gearing up to ride into orbit Friday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, taking aim on the International Space Station on the first all-commercial mission to visit the research complex. Liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is set for 11:17 a.m. EDT (1517 GMT).

Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut, will command the four-man crew. He will be joined for the launch into space by pilot Larry Connor and mission specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy.

The mission is managed by Axiom Space, a Houston-based company which contracted with SpaceX for the Falcon 9 launch and the Crew Dragon flight to the space station. Axiom also has an agreement with NASA, which is providing accommodations for the four-man crew at the station.

The arrangement is the first of its kind. Previous visits by private astronauts, or “space tourists,” to the space station occurred on government-led missions on Russian Soyuz spaceships.

Mark Pathy, Larry Connor, Mike Lopez-Alegria, and Eytan Stibbe at launch pad 39A during a dress rehearsal for launch of Axiom’s Ax-1 mission. Credit: SpaceX

Axiom’s first mission, named Ax-1, is an all-private affair. López-Alegría is an Axiom employee, and his three crewmates are paying their way to the space station as Axiom customers.

Connor, head of a real estate investment firm and an experienced private pilot, will serve as co-pilot of the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. Pathy is an investor and philanthropist from Canada, and Stibbe is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and a former F-16 fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force.

The crew trained for the mission in Houston and at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

The Ax-1 mission will last about 11 days, with roughly nine days on the space station, where López-Alegría, Connor, Pathy, and Stibbe will perform experiments, participate in educational and public relations outreach activities, and enjoy their time in orbit.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand vertical on pad 39A in preparation for launch on the Ax-1 mission. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

There is an 90% chance that weather conditions will be favorable for launch Friday, according to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. There is a moderate risk that upper level winds could exceed the Falcon 9’s safety criteria, and a moderate risk of unfavorable downrange weather for landing of the Falcon 9’s first stage or a splashdown of the Dragon capsule in the Atlantic Ocean in the event of an in-flight emergency.

The Falcon 9 rocket will head northeast after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center to line up with the space station’s ground track.

The rocket’s first stage will land on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” parked in the Atlantic Ocean about 340 miles (545 kilometers) downrange from the launch pad. The reusable booster, designated B1062, will be flying on its fifth mission.

Read our mission preview story for details on the Transporter 4 launch.

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1062.5)

PAYLOAD: Crew Dragon Endeavour on the Ax-1 mission

LAUNCH SITE: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

LAUNCH DATE: April 8, 2022

LAUNCH TIME: 11:17:12 a.m. EDT (1517:12 GMT)

LAUNCH WINDOW: Instantaneous

WEATHER FORECAST: 90% probability of acceptable weather

BOOSTER RECOVERY: “A Shortfall of Gravitas” drone ship

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Northeast

TARGET ORBIT: Approximately 130 miles by 143 miles (210 by 230 kilometers); Inclination of 51.6 degrees to the equator

LAUNCH TIMELINE:

  • T+00:00: Liftoff
  • T+01:02: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:35: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
  • T+02:39: Stage separation
  • T+02:46: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+07:25: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
  • T+08:48: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
  • T+09:02: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
  • T+09:29: First stage landing
  • T+12:07: Dragon separation
  • T+12:55: Dragon nose cone open sequence begins

MISSION STATS:

  • 147th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 155th launch of Falcon rocket family since 2006
  • 5th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1062
  • 129th Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
  • 140th launch overall from pad 39A
  • 46th SpaceX launch overall from pad 39A
  • 90th flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
  • 6th SpaceX launch with humans on-board
  • 1st mission for Axiom Space
  • 3rd flight of Dragon Endeavour spacecraft
  • 8th flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft
  • 13th Falcon 9 launch of 2022
  • 13th launch by SpaceX in 2022
  • 14th orbital launch based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022




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