Space station’s first all-private astronaut team docked to orbiting platform -Breaking
By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – The first private team of astronauts to launch to the International Space Station, (ISS), arrived at orbiting research station safely on Saturday. It will begin a seven-day-long scientific mission that has been hailed as a landmark in commercial spaceflight.
This rendezvous took place 21 hours after the Houston-based startup Axiom Space Inc had lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Friday, riding on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
At around 8:30 a.m. GMT (1230 GMT), the Crew Dragon capsule was lifted to orbit by the rocket. The two spacecraft were approximately 250 miles (220 km) above central Atlantic Ocean. NASA live-broadcasts the coupling.
A technical problem caused the final approach to be delayed. The video feed that monitors the capsule’s rendezvous at ISS was disrupted by the glitch. Crew Dragon was forced to stop and remain 20 meters from station while mission control investigated the problem.
After docking was completed, the passageway connecting the space station to the crew capsule will need to be pressurized for about 2 hours. Then hatches that allow astronauts to enter ISS can be opened.
Retired Spanish-born NASA astronaut Michael Lopez Alegria was the vice president of business development for Axiom. The team will spend eight days on orbit.
Larry Connor was his second-in command, a technology entrepreneur from Ohio and an aerobatics aviator. He was designated the mission pilot. Connor is now in his 70s, but his exact age was not disclosed by the company.
Rounding out the Ax-1 crew were investor-philanthropist and former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe, 64, and Canadian businessman and philanthropist Mark Pathy, 52, both serving as mission specialists.
Stibbe, a second Israeli, flew to space with Ilan Ramon and six other NASA crewmates.
These astronauts will join seven other regular, government-paid ISS crew members – three American astronauts and a German astronaut from European Space Agency, as well as three Russian cosmonauts.
They brought two dozen science-related experiments aboard ISS with them. These included studies on cancer and brain health.
Axiom’s SpaceX rocket company and NASA collaborated on the mission. They all considered it a significant step toward expanding commercial space-based activities.
NASA officials believe the U.S. space agencies will be able to use the current trend to increase their focus on science exploration.
Although the space station has been visited by civilians from time to another, Ax-1 marks the first commercial team of astronauts to the ISS to perform its original purpose as an orbiting laboratory for research.
SpaceX also announced the sixth space mission in six years. This follows four NASA spacecraft missions and the September “Inspiration 4” launch that launched an all-civilian crew into orbit. This flight didn’t dock at ISS.
Axiom officials say that Axiom’s astronaut ventures, and plans to create a private space station at Earth orbit for wealthy thrill-seekers go beyond what companies like Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic offer to rich thrill-seekers. These are owned by billionaire entrepreneurs Richard Branson (Jeff Bezos) and Richard Branson (Richard Branson).