A SpaceX capsule carrying three paying customers and a former NASA astronaut has arrived. The International Space Station, finishing the first leg of this first-of-its-kind mission that will last about 10 days.
The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday morning. And the spacecraft, which separated from the rocket after reaching orbit. Spent about 20 hours free-flying through orbit as it maneuvered closer to the ISS.
The trip was brokered by the Houston, Texas-based startup Axiom Space, which seeks to book rocket rides. Provide all the necessary training and coordinate flights to the ISS for anyone who can afford it. It’s all in line with the US government. The private sector’s goal is to boost commercial activity on the ISS and beyond.
Onboard this mission, called AX-1, are Michael Lopez-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut turned Axiom employee who is commanding the mission; Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe; Canadian investor Mark Pathy; and Ohio-based real estate magnate Larry Connor.
After reaching the ISS aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, they joined seven professional astronauts. Already onboard the space station — including three NASA astronauts, a German astronaut, and three Russian cosmonauts. It’s not the first time paying customers or otherwise, non-astronauts have visited the ISS. Russia has sold seats on its Soyuz spacecraft for various wealthy thrill-seekers in years past. But this is the first mission that includes a crew entirely comprised of private citizens with no active members of a government astronaut. It’s also the first time private citizens have traveled to the ISS on a US-made spacecraft.
How much did this all cost?
Axiom previously disclosed a price of $55 million per seat for a 10-day trip to the ISS. The company declined to comment on the financial terms for this specific mission — beyond saying in a press conference. Last year the price is in the “tens of millions.”
The mission is made possible by very close coordination among Axiom, SpaceX, and NASA since the ISS is government-funded and operated. And the space agency has revealed some details on how much it’ll charge for use of its 20-year-old orbiting laboratory.
Food alone costs $2,000 per day, per person, in space. Getting provisions to and from the space station for a commercial crew is another $88,000 to $164,000 per person, per day. For each mission, bringing on the necessary support from NASA astronauts will cost commercial customers another $5.2 million, and all the mission support and planning that NASA lends is another $4.8 million.
Who is flying?
Lopez-Alegría, a veteran of four trips to space between 1995 and 2007 during his time with NASA, is commanding this mission as an Axiom employee.
Ax-1 Crew (left to right) Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael López-Alegría, and Eytan Stibbe.For more about the three paying customers, check out our coverage here.